Interview with Bernie-Anne Freeman

Position: Principal Engineer 

Organisation: Department of Transport and Main Roads, Toowoomba 

One-liner: Taking STEM to the streets beyond Toowoomba.

Engineers help build infrastructure to make lives easier and safer for the public. Women and men both bring unique perspectives to the table to help make this happen.

The Interview

At what age did you decide this was something you wanted to specialise in?

Elsie, Western Cape College

In Year 10, I thought I’d give accounting a go as part of my high school’s work experience program and I found myself in the finance section at the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR). While there, I also learnt about the different careers available across the department – and this is where my interest in engineering began. The engineers at the time were working on designing and building a pedestrian underpass. Being able to work in a team to design infrastructure that would benefit communities (while using skills like math, science and communication), felt like a pretty good fit for me.

From there I took the opportunity to learn more about Engineering. I attended the National Youth Science Forum in Year 12 and career events at universities to learn more about what a career as an engineer would be like.

After completing your civil engineering degree, what drew you towards the idea of being an engineer at Transport and Main Roads?

Grace, Moranbah SHS

From doing work experience at TMR, I knew it was an enjoyable and rewarding place to work. While completing my Bachelor of Engineering, I had a role as a TMR cadet, working in road design. This was a great opportunity, as it allowed me to apply what I learnt at university to the ‘real world’, with practical, on-the-job experience that my cadetship provided.

What is microsurfacing of roads?

STEM Girl Power

To make a road surface, microsurfacing combines a range of materials – including a bitumen binder, aggregate (which is gravel, sands and stones), cement, water and additives. This mix provides a smooth and quiet surface, making it a suitable option in urban locations or to improve rough roads.

What was it like being a female in a male-dominated course and in your current role? How do you make sure you’re heard?

STEM Girl Power

While it may be a little daunting to step into a field where you may be the minority, my experience is the positives absolutely outweigh the negatives. Engineers help build infrastructure to make lives easier and safer for the public. Women and men both bring unique perspectives to the table to help make this happen. Rather than letting any daunting moments get the best of me, I prefer to take on the challenge and use every opportunity as a learning experience to enhance my skills.

Why did you decide to join the global leadership program that will be in Antarctica?

STEM Girl Power

I saw this program as a great opportunity to expand my skills and continue the important conversation about women in STEM, women in leadership and sustainability.

Did you do work experience around the Darling Downs and South West as part of your uni course? Is it hard to do your role when you have to travel long distances to go on-site to fix roads?

STEM Girl Power

Throughout my university degree, I was a cadet with TMR and this counted as my workplace experience needed to complete engineering degree requirements.

I really enjoy the onsite aspect, as this allows me to see the impact of my work and takes me to different parts of the Darling Downs region. Working within the team at TMR means that we share the travel between us. This gives me time to also undertake investigations from our home office.

Depending on the size of a project, do you design the road repairs or new road projects yourself or work with others in a team?

STEM Girl Power

One of the benefits of working at TMR is collaborating with colleagues and stakeholders to ensure the projects we undertake best meet the needs of the community. Typically, each person has deliverables that contribute to the overall project coming together.

Are there any environmental solutions that can be used as alternative products for roads while maintaining safety?

STEM Girl Power

Yes, there are a number of alternative solutions an engineer can choose to provide a sustainable outcome. You have to consider the suitability of each solution – from safety considerations right through to cost/benefit over the expected life of the solution. One example is the use of recycled materials in road construction, such as truck tyres being processed into fine rubber particles (known as crumb rubber) which is added to improve road surfacing. Another is reusing asphalt at the end of its life, into new asphalt mixes.

Your Antarctica leadership program sounds like a challenge, what do you want to come from it?

STEM Girl Power

While the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed our voyage to Antarctica, I have met an amazing global network of women in STEM completing our pre-voyage program virtually. Overall, I’m looking to further advance my leadership and strategic skills so I can help build better communities and support other women to follow a career in STEM.


Bernie-Anne is a civil engineer who has undertaken a range of design, construction and maintenance roles helping to build better roads in Queensland. 

Completing her civil engineering degree at the University of Southern Queensland, Bernie-Anne’s roles has allowed her to advance her technical, communication and leadership capabilities.   

As a Principal Engineer, Bernie-Anne currently leads the Darling Downs district’s road resurfacing and rehabilitation programs at the Department of Transport and Main Roads with a focus on value for money, sustainable solutions. This work includes pavement rehabilitation and maintenance, asphalt and microsurfacing.  

Based in Toowoomba, Bernie-Anne works on sites across the region, including Goondiwindi, Miles, Stanthorpe, Laidley and Yarraman. Her work is a balance of designing and delivering road infrastructure projects within time and budget constraints while ensuring the solutions provide safe roads for the public.  

Bernie-Anne supports and encourages female engineers to progress their careers and has presented at industry panels to inspire and engage other young women into industry roles. She has been selected for a global leadership program for women in STEM which will hopefully take her to Antarctica (when international travel resumes). 

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