Queenslanders rely on the road and transport system to journey through their day, therefore ensuring safe and resilient road network is vital to connect our state. Currently, in road engineering and construction, more sustainable and environmentally conscious materials and processes need to be implemented. Public works Engineers have an important part to play in initiating and encouraging trials of these innovative processes and selecting better solutions. In the road pavement and resurfacing program that I deliver, I led and encourage this opportunity to consider, analyse and make engineering decisions to enhance sustainability in construction. Utilising recycled materials in the right situations results in savings in cost, waste, emissions and improves environmental and performance outcomes, contributing toward a circular economy.
Especially after recent rain events throughout south east Queensland, again we are reminded of the importance of building a better and resilient road network that can withstand the effects of these natural disasters. Throughout my career, I have contributed to various responses to local disaster and declared weather events. By combining sustainable treatments and work practises to achieve more robust and resilient roads, not only do we create a more resilient network but also target and minimise the causal factors to the frequency of these disasters.
I rigorously consider known and innovative solutions, and apply engineering judgement in pursuing innovative treatments, to seek value for money and sustainable solutions. Implementation may include reusing materials by improving them with an additive, rather than replacing with new. Another example is incorporating recycled materials to enhance or use less of new materials, such as using recycled tyres that may otherwise go to landfill, known as crumbed rubber, modified binder where suitable. Also, in designing asphalt pavements, use of a stronger more resistant asphalt mix, allows for thinner pavements decreasing material use. Over recent years some innovative examples I have led include the application of microsurfacing, cape seals, EME2 and warm mix asphalt, use of pavesmart technology, mechanical mix granular stabilisation, and first TMR Queensland trial of continuous paver-laid foam bitumen stabilisation treatment. I led this works program in the Darling Downs, and also collaborate with Engineers across the country, to improve the outcomes of trials and ultimately to improve outcomes on the road network.
Selecting sustainable treatments is one part, the other is ensuring that contractors constructing this work are meeting quality requirements. As the Contract Administrator and Engineer on various pavement rehabilitation, resurfacing and asphalt contracts, I ensure that my road infrastructure projects are delivered efficiently and sustainability, at value for money and quality product is achieved.
In regional and rural areas, availability of construction materials is not always readily available and using engineering judgement to consider local fit for purpose materials can yield sustainability outcomes. This may include considering local pit granular materials instead of carting quarried and graded materials for road base construction or rehabilitation. Considering value for money and sustainable solutions, with a focus of local materials, treatment innovations and quality construction, ultimately results in better road network for Queenslanders.
As a women leader in STEM fields, I have always tried to lead by example, advocating that women make great technical engineers and leaders through working hard and being willing to share my story. I am passionate about being a role model for other girls and women, and I strive to supports and encourage them as our next generation of STEM professionals. I am very passionate about promoting STEM careers to all, particularly women and girls, to improve diversity and equality.
I have done this through volunteering my time to speak at various events and mentor students and early career professionals. Many of my engagement activities including public speaking at events, published articles and journals, interviews with high school students are just some of these engagement activities, which are highlighted in more detail under this heading below.
Throughout my career I have always tried my best, and currently lead a team of 14 older male engineers and inspectors. Together we deliver a $70 million dollar program to improve roads for my local community. I show up to this role every day with my empathic, kind, enthusiastic and honest demeanour, and its these soft skills and leadership skills that compliment my technical knowledge as a well-rounded people-focused role model.
In addition to outreach and engagement activities I have led or participated in, some other examples of being a role model in action include:
I was recently recognised as a role model through the Institute of Public Works Engineering (IPWEAQ), where I was awarded the 2021 Women in Engineering at the annual excellence awards night in Cairns last October. This award recognised a woman with all round excellence in public works, including strong leadership, technical knowledge, collaboration with others and prioritising community engagement.
In 2021, I was awarded the Women Leading in Roads, Pavements & Asset Management Award through the industry bodies Austroads and Centre for Pavement Engineering Education, recognising my work in striving for innovative and sustainable road pavement solutions for the best community outcomes.
In 2019, I was selected for an international leadership program for Women in STEM fields known as Homeward Bound. This program selects 80 STEM leaders from all around the globe who are willing and able to lead sustainably, and stives to provide them with skills and connections to actively contribute to a better planet.
I actively use social media including LinkedIn to continue to be a role model and promote women in engineering.
I volunteer my time to mentor to high school girls and early career STEM women, and do all I can to champion them, support, and encourage them. I take the effort to allow work experience opportunities in my teams for all, particularly girls and women. Working in the Road Construction field of Civil engineering currently, which is particularly male dominated, I often find myself as the only women in the room. I use my influence to engage the many male engineers I work with to improve our industry, minimise bias and embody inclusivity.
As a women leader in STEM fields, I am passionate about engaging with colleagues, industry, and future professionals to improve the diversity of professionals in STEM. I truly believe a career in STEM is exciting and meaningful, and I enjoy sharing my story and applying my technical knowledge to improve road outcomes for my community.
Throughout my career, I have actively been a visible STEM leader through volunteering my time, publishing in various articles, speaking at numerous events, and mentoring students and early career professionals. I prioritise regional based events to balance these typically more male-dominated spaces.
Supporting girls into STEM:
In December 2021, I was the industry guest speaker at the Queensland University of Technology's (QUT) Future You STEM Summit. I spoke to high school students about the opportunities of STEM careers. I shared my story as a civil engineer, assisting in the response of recent flooding events in Queensland and sharing my efforts to strive to construct more resilient roads. I shared the importance and satisfaction that working in STEM in the public service has for me and the real impact made on our communities.
In August 2021, I was interviewed by high school students to celebrate National Science week and this interview was published by Inspiring Australia (https://www.inspiringqld.com.au/blog/interview-with-bernie-anne-freeman). I answered questions from regional high school students on being a woman in a male-dominated industry and making engineering sustainable.
For multiple years, I have volunteered as an industry mentor for the Dream Big Australia, STEAM ahead program, further supporting to university students.
When studying, I co-founded and was president of the Toowoomba chapter of Robogals, an international student-run organisation that aims to inspire girls in STEM. We conducted workshops throughout Toowoomba, the Darling Downs and Western Downs areas during 2013.
Technical Engineering engagement:
I have published many articles in the IPWEAQ Journal 'Engineering for Public Works', most recently a technical paper on applying innovative, sustainable treatments on regional roads. This shared my learnings from four years of research and implementation of various microsurfacing treatments. I shared this technical presentation at the IPWEAQ South West Branch Conference in March 2021. Feedback was so positive, that I presented again at the state IPWEAQ conference last October. Sharing my learnings have allowed others to improve value for money and sustainability outcomes.
This month, I was the guest speaker at the Toowoomba Regional Council Professional Development Breakfast, where I spoke on leadership and sustainability, to celebrate International Women's Day and World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development.
Women in STEM Promotion
Earlier this month, I ran a 1-hour online workshop for IPWEAQ on leadership, visibility, and values, as the first Women in Engineering sessions for 2022. I am also a mentor and presenter for IPWEAQ's Women in Public Works Leadership Program, which is a yearlong program targeting 12 early to middle career women in STEM.
I have regularly been requested to speak at International Women's Day or Women in Engineering Day events over the years, including those hosted by the QDTMR and IPWEAQ.