Reconnected graduates aim to inspire girls in STEM Reconnected graduates aim to inspire girls in STEM

It’s a small world, as two St Rita’s College graduates recently found while rocking the male-dominated mining industry.

When Molly Stanistreet (Class of 2010) began her new position with global base metals producer MMG (Minerals and Metals Group), she soon discovered her colleague, Freya van der Wal, was also a St Rita’s graduate. 

Molly, a Mine Geologist, and Freya, a Geotechnical Engineer, fly in and out of the Dugald River Zinc Mine in Cloncurry, one of the world’s biggest lead, zinc and silver deposits.

Freya, who graduated in 2019 with a Bachelor of Engineering (double majoring in Civil and Geotechnical Engineering), said her chosen career path was directly influenced by her time at St Rita’s.

“I was motivated by teachers, especially in senior years, that instilled in me that I could follow any career I wanted; I was never deterred by the gender inequality in engineering,” she said.

“Engineering is a really dynamic field and the mining industry has so many opportunities, especially for women, that other industries didn’t seem to have.

“Working in technical services means I get to spend part of my day underground in a hands-on environment, then other parts working on projects and design work." 

Freya, now also studying a Juris Doctor at USQ, said she realised during her time as a student leader for a Women in Engineering program that it could be difficult for young women to find STEM mentors. 

“As a female engineer I feel as though I have a responsibility to consciously change and correct the bias young women face during schooling, through media and from society,” she said.

Molly, who graduated from UQ with a Bachelor of Science (majoring in Geological Science), said her study and career path was also impacted by her studies at St Rita’s.

“It was my former teacher Mr Matthew Lourigan’s dedicated love of science and targeted methods of teaching that motivated me to become a geologist,” she said.

“In particular, his classes about volcanoes and tectonic plate movement triggered an excitement and eagerness in me to learn more.

“I love the diversity of geology and the moment I stepped foot underground I knew it was exactly where I wanted to be.

“Whether it’s mineralogy (the study of minerals and crystal structures), exploration geology (exploring new and undeveloped potential mining sites around the world) or any number of other exciting career paths, geology is so much more than just the study of earth science.” 

Molly said she was encouraged to engage with science from a young age, giving her the courage to push against gender stereotypes and follow her ambitions.

“There really is no limit to what can be achieved when diversity is introduced into the fields of science and engineering, and luckily, the mining industry strongly advocates for female equality and equal opportunity employment,” she said. 

“It’s such an exciting time to be a woman in science and to be in a position to guide girls into a career that inspires them and allows them to make a difference.

“Each and every single day, women are breaking through barriers that generations before us were bound by; it’s our responsibility to support, encourage and empower girls to pursue a career in anything they choose.”