Innovation is part of Rio Tinto’s DNA from big data to building the first autonomous train, so it's not surprising Rio Tinto’s Donna Stace enjoys working in the Rail Maintenance team

Small town, big job. Rio Tinto’s Donna Stace has vision

Small town, big job. Rio Tinto’s Donna Stace has vision

At Where Women Work, we always love when we come across amazing women who are having a positive impact in some of Australia’s most exciting industries.

Meet Donna Stace. Donna works in a fascinating role for Rio Tinto as a maintenance supervisor for their Rail Maintenance team. She’s certainly enjoying her thriving career so let’s find out why!

Starting out as a budding machinist apprentice

Rio Tinto - railway haulage maintenance

Donna began her career as an apprentice fitter & machinist but her career soon took her overseas - to the UK and Ireland - where she transferred her skills to a role in the building industry. When Donna decided to return to Australia, she continued her career in the mining industry and has progressed to become an effective leader and valued team member at Rio Tinto.

Rio Tinto's rail network is the largest, privately-owned and operated rail system in Australia, servicing 16 mines via 1,700 kilometres of rail. Rio Tinto is leading in its rail operations, providing the world’s first automated heavy haul rail network that ensures safe and timely movement of iron ore between their Pilbara mines and Dampier and Cape Lambert ports. Based at the 7 Mile Rail depot in Karratha, a city in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, Donna enjoys a challenging career in a remote destination.

Rio Tinto train

In her role, Donna is responsible for the maintenance of 13,000 ore cars in a 70 million dollar automated machine shop. Donna’s day consists of planning, managing and coordinating tasks for a trade and semi-skilled workforce. This means she needs to be a great communicator with strong stakeholder engagement skills. “Your day can change at any time with machine and people availability, so flexibility and timely decision making is critical,” explains Donna.

Donna’s work adds significant value to the overall asset health of the organisation. “Maintaining the quality of products and output numbers is an integral part of the overall performance of our supply chain,” adds Donna. 

When asked what part of her role she enjoys the most, Donna commented on the challenge of juggling all the components of her role and being able to make a tangible difference in every aspect of her work.

“I really enjoy developing team members to help them reach their full potential, and challenging and holding everyone accountable to help us achieve outstanding results” she said.

A progressive and team-orientated work culture

Rio Tinto rail maintenance jobs

It’s not just what Donna does that gives her great job satisfaction, but how she does it.

“Being able to live the values of Rio Tinto is important to me,” comments Donna. “We have a very supportive and collaborative approach to our work. We look out for each other and work together to achieve desired outcomes.”

Safety, teamwork, respect, integrity and excellence are Rio Tinto’s value set – and they underpin the actions of all employees.

Advances in automation across industry should attract more women

Rio Tinto railway train

Donna is known to be a caring, passionate and hardworking person who always strives to make a difference. One thing Donna is especially passionate about is helping to drive a step change in inclusion and diversity within the resources industry.

“There are many challenges in recruiting and retaining female employees,” comments Donna, “but I do see a strong appetite for change. Thankfully, advances in automation provide an important and welcome opportunity for women’s career progression in the mining industry. Such innovation should provide great pathways into the resources sector.”

As a result of her passion for promoting resources as a great career option for women, Donna helped establish the Women in Rail Network. This thriving community of members connects women across Rio Tinto’s operations including Dampier Salt, and their Pilbara iron ore network to provide networking and career opportunities for their female workforce. The group also collaborates with the Karratha STEM Network, to help provide important support for employment, diversity and inclusion, and help upskilling the region.

The Women in Rail Network sees a range of roles represented in its membership, including in maintenance, planning & integration, administration, project, contractor management and HR - just some of the many exciting career paths available to women in the resources sector.

Rio Tinto - Trade Up Australia

Donna also devotes her time as an ambassador for not-for-profit organisation, TradeUP Australia, working to encourage more women to view skilled trades as a viable career option and elevate the status of apprenticeships.

Rio Tinto - students education in the community

Award winning achievements

Rio Tinto - women in resources

Due to her success, Donna was celebrated as one of the trailblazing women from Western Australia’s resources sector who won the 2019 Women in Resources Awards (WIRA). The awards, run by the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia (CME), recognise exceptional women working in the resources sector, as well as the individuals and companies who champion gender diversity and organisations working to build a world-class industry and improve the participation of women in the sector.

Donna won the prestigious 'Outstanding Operator/Technician/Trade Woman in Resources' category.

Rio Tinto Karratha Australia

Also of special note, Donna won the Australia Day Award in 2015 for Citizen of the Year for the City of Karratha – a remarkable and impressive achievement. The award recognises people who have dedicated time to bettering the local community.

Donna is a true City of Karratha local, born in Dampier, and has been giving back to the community since her early school days. Donna was the chair of the not-for-profit playgroup organisation Karratha Community House Inc. and spent hundreds of hours assisting the organisation in providing better facilities and services for families with small children in the community.

Enjoying a positive work/life balance

Living in remote part of Australia, Donna’s work and lifestyle have many advantages. A strong community ethos and focus on family are evident.

As a mother of three, most of Donna’s outside interests are based around her children. “When the weather heats up, you can always find me trying hard to stay afloat playing water polo with the local club,” laughs Donna, “and I’m also involved in the local gymnastics club committee.”

Inspiring confidence in other women

When asked for a piece of career advice that resonates with her and other women might find useful, Donna encourages without hesitation, “I think women should always be open to an opportunity and, if it feels right, go for it.”

Join talented women like Donna at Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto offers a wide range of job vacancies across its Australian and international locations.

Research the many exciting career opportunities available and explore a new and fulfilling career chapter making a difference.


Find out more

Disclosure: Where Women Work researches and publishes insightful evidence about how its paid member organizations support women's equality.

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