Leanne Millhouse had an impressive and enviable career in Antarctic shipping and operations spanning 41 years with the Australian Antarctic Division.
Approaching retirement, she looks back on her exciting and fulfilling journey, which she built by embracing opportunities as they came her way.
From Shore To Ship
- In 2009 Leanne was asked to join the shipping group. As a Shipping Officer, she helped manage access and activities on the ship when it was in port, and was responsible for finance, procurement and procedure updates.
- “It was hard work and I had to think on my feet all the time. But it was a very supportive environment, and I enjoyed being part of a team where everyone had a contribution and every contribution was different, with all working toward the same objectives,” she said.
Baptism Of Fire
While Leanne is a seasoned hand now, she recalls her first experience on the job as a “baptism of fire”.
“Two days after the ship left I received a call from the Voyage Leader saying the refuelling equipment was missing. My boss was in Europe at the time, so I spent a lot of time on email working through the problem,” she said.
“You hear the term ‘flexible’ bandied about, but it does apply to this job. You might start on plan A but you may end up on plan Z. You really have to adjust to the issues that arise and changing circumstances.”
Not So Smooth Sailing
- Leanne was onboard the Aurora Australis overseeing resupply operations at Casey research station when the call to assist the stricken vessel came through.
- “We were in the middle of refueling and resupply so we stopped all activity. We had to work out who needed to be on or off the ship, how we’d get everything we needed on to the ship, and what equipment we’d leave at the station,” she said.
- The rescue operation was run by the Master of the Aurora Australis, with assistance from Leanne and fellow expeditioners with skills in glaciology, search and rescue, sea ice travel and watercraft operations, as well as the ship’s crew and a team at Head Office.
- “From a people-management perspective it was exhausting. A lot of people just needed to talk and most afternoons the Deputy Voyage Leader and I would have people up to our office for a chat. We were proud of the fact that when they left our office they were laughing,” she said.
Leanne has made 22 trips to Antarctica, 17 of those in voyage management roles and three as an Operations Coordinator on station.
Key skills to the work
“I don’t know everything and I relied on a team of experts – like the Station Leader, field training officers, senior diesel mechanics, boating officers, aircraft ground support officers, and engineers – to provide advice. We all worked as a team to facilitate the resources and assets to safely get a job done,” she said.
“This was the first time we’d fully resupplied the three stations at once. It was a complex voyage, but we had a great team and it was a good voyage to finish on,” she said.
Leanne is off to spend a month in the US, riding trains across the country, visiting friends and spending her first summer at home in a long time.
“I feel good about the contribution that I’ve made to Australia’s Antarctic Program, and leave with a great sense of achievement. I’ve been lucky to be in the right place at the right time, in the right organisation,” she said.
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Source: Australian Government