KI's Carol Miell awarded OAM for service to marine rescue

Carol Ann Miell of American River, Kangaroo Island received an Order of Australia Medal in the Queen's Birthday 2019 Honours List.

Her OAM is for service to the community through marine rescue organisations.

And anyone who ventures out on KI's often treacherous waters is her hands.

Whether boaters log on with her at American River Radio on Channel 21 VHF or not, Carol will most likely help police and local boats coordinate any rescue.

"I try to do as much as we can, as quickly as we can," she said, praising her network of commercial and charter skippers and other emergency services.

The American River Coastal Radio Base Station was the first in SA to operate 24 hours, seven days a week when it commenced service in 2001.

She averages 1500 radio calls a month in summer, back down to about 500 in winter, mostly on VHF channels from as far away as Port Lincoln to Robe, but also on HF radio.

Carol operates the service out her radio room in her backyard but she has speakers in her house and so is always on call.

In 2010, she became affiliated with Australian Volunteer Coast Guard, but she still uses her old Australian Radio Rescue Service call sign of "American River Radio".

That was also the year she separated from her husband and had to rebuild the radio room, investing many thousands of her own dollars into towers, antennas, radios and computers.

In 2011, lightning hit one of her towers destroying several radios, but luckily insurance paid half and the KI Lions raised $5000 for her HF radio repair.

And with her HF radio, she can reach as far away as Esperance, WA all the way to Queensland, often being the first point of contact in Australia for round-the-world sailors.

She has also received a Ministerial Commendation, Parliament of South Australia in 2017, but receiving the OAM was a real surprise.

"It's so wonderful of them, I'm so gobsmacked," Carol said. "I've found this Island has a lot of good people on it."

Carol said she could not provide the service without the support of others, including Western River Radio operator and charter boat skipper Gavin Solly and Cape Jervis Radio operator Scott Weaver.

Then there are the commercial skippers such as Tony Rilstone on the Black Pearl and KI rock lobster skippers Lance and Ben Tyley.

She loves the operating the radios and being part of the local rescue network.

She is able to call on her network to take over radio duties at least once during the day, so she can leave the house to run errands or walk her beloved greyhounds.

She only goes to the mainland twice a year if she can help it, once to do Christmas shopping and once to do winter shopping.

"I enjoy the people and it's always good to be chatting to the charter boys and the cray boys, they are all wonderful to me," she said.

The charter operators sent her some Christmas money, she bought a fish tank and named each of the fish after them.

Carol was born and raised in Adelaide before heading off to work in top-secret defence industry positions, including in Woomera working on the Black Arrow and later the Sea Wolf missile programs.

"I loved every moment of it," she said.

She always enjoyed sailing and in 2001 after many sailing trips across from Adelaide, she and her then husband decided to settle in American River.

"I had sailed over many times over the years, loved the place, found this house, it just drew me," she said.

They started American River Radio after being a couple of close calls over the years on their own yacht and she realised there was a real need for marine radio services on KI and in the region.

"We had one night in particular where we were in trouble and there was no radio back then," she said.


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