Tarnya McBurney

Russell Mineral Equipment (RME) 
Product Manager for the RUSSELL Mill Relining Machines (MRMs) and RUSSELL Feed Chute Transporters (FCTs).  

Tarnya McBurney


I work at Russell Mineral Equipment (RME) with a team of engineers to develop products for our mining customers’ needs.  
Mill relining is the most specialised and important task in the maintenance of a mineral processing plant. Mill relining dictates shut down times, mill availability and mine site profitability. And the products I’m responsible for play a key role in faster relines.  

I help mechanical and electrical engineers, as well as the RME Sales team, to analyse the right product for our customers and undertake many interviews with reline professionals to determine product requirements and features suitable for each mill.   
It’s a very customer-centric role. I’m involved in many discussions with customers to integrate feedback from them and identify the right products and the best technologies to help solve their problems.


Russell Mineral Equipment (RME) is the global leader in designing, manufacturing and supplying mill relining technologies and services. The company is one of the largest manufacturing companies in Queensland, and we play a valuable role in resources and mining.   
RME’s global headquarters is in Toowoomba. We’re unique to other large Queensland businesses as we’re located outside of Brisbane, which is essential to the local economy of the Darling Downs.   
RME products are exported around the world. RME’s proprietary technologies are used in over 440 mine sites globally.  
Not bad for a company with over 400 employees based outside of Brisbane and in regional Queensland!  
Our contribution to mining services is significant to the resources economy here in Queensland, which reaps the benefits of investment in mining resources. We also have strong apprenticeship and traineeship systems with TAFE Queensland and the University of Southern Queensland.  
Manufacturing is part of Queensland’s vision for the future and is important to the state’s continued growth. The benefit of my work in Queensland is connecting a local manufacturing company with the customers that we support around the world.  
For example, a copper mine in South America that is focused on balancing relining efficiency with safety will look to us for top-quality products to meet its productivity goals. These products are all manufactured locally.  
My role supports our Toowoomba-based workshop developing world-first safety technologies that meet the critical needs of our customers – such as reducing variability in mill relining and removing fatal risks to personnel.

Role Model

Many women in product management come from a technical or engineering background.  
However, emotional intelligence and other factors play an important part in succeeding in a product management role, especially when working with those in engineering and technology, which still attracts more men than women to these fields.   
A female perspective in this industry is incredibly valuable. In addition, I came from a different professional background. My experience doesn’t just focus on product management, it is much broader and includes studies and roles in graphic design, customer experience and marketing communication.   
Coming from a creative field, I have a good eye for branding and marketing. It gives me a chance to be inventive and to design, construct and create new technologies to help solve customers’ real life problems. Not just theoretical scenarios.  
I love the challenge of trying to find solutions to complex problems, and another reason why I enjoy my role is that I like to help people.  
I’ve been acknowledged by one of the female leaders at RME for my ‘pursuit of knowledge through education and development, plus my assiduous application to, and success in, a highly technical role’.  
I am passionate about neuroscience, communication, education, art and understanding people’s behaviour and diversity. 
I believe women and girls aspiring to work in STEM should engage with both scientific and non-scientific fields to deepen their knowledge of the world and to learn more about the areas that they are passionate about.  
Those with non-scientific degrees may not see technology or mining as an area to go into. Still, these are precisely the areas that benefit from people with broader skills and experiences. I hope women are inspired by this and consider non-traditional career paths. Fantastic pathways can open up for them, which they might not have thought about.  
I have pursued a lifetime of study. But school was very challenging for me, and I was labelled as ‘not academic’ as I had learning difficulties from a young age – dyslexia (reading and writing).  
The advice that I received was that I would only be able to go into the creative industry. So, I worked as a graphic designer and in marketing, and I also completed six months of study to be a nurse.  
I’m very proud to be able to achieve the same as others. I just had to work a little harder and longer to achieve what I have achieved. I hope these qualities, and this path, makes me a good role model for women and girls aspiring to work in STEM. 


My engagement in STEM activities is closely tied to my love of studying. If there’s any chance to attend a conference or an educational activity, I’ll happily participate in it.  
I’m regularly involved in Women in Mining breakfast events. And I’ve also been engaged in industry-relevant conferences, such as the AusIMM Mill Operators Conference. I draw a lot from the speakers and other attendees and experience attendees’ openness and willingness to share stories and learnings from their time in mill operations.  
While I love absorbing knowledge through these experiences, I am also dedicated to sharing my learnings. Internally at RME, this means explaining different product features to my colleagues.  
Some of them will understand the technical side of our relining products and services and come to me to help translate what this does from a customer’s point of view. These conversations are really important to get the best outcomes for our business and our customers. I enjoy discussing technical concepts and product management outcomes and sharing knowledge is deeply satisfying when it also helps others to succeed.  
In 2022, I ran a Lunch & Learn session with a colleague for staff at Russell Mineral Equipment. The topic was diversity in the workplace, tailored for our diverse and culturally-rich global cohort who are involved in innovations in design, technology and manufacturing.  
It was a presentation highlighting myths and facts about neurodiversity, and the advantages that organisations can gain from diversity in the backgrounds, training, gender, culture and other individual qualities of employees.  
And it was a personal insight to my own path – a lifetime of education that included a Diploma of Graphic Art plus study in Nursing (Aged Care, Dementia ward) – as well as my challenges at school with dyslexia. 
Within every workplace, including STEM environments, many have a different way of seeing the world due to having some neurodiversity. But, as the research says, there is no typical brain; just like fingerprints, no two people have the same brain anatomy. Differences can be seen as weaknesses, but if you look further, there are some amazing hidden strengths.


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