Two generations of women in radio reflect on Amanda Keller’s Hall of Fame induction

Staff Writer

Becoming the first on-air female talent to be inducted into the radio Hall of Fame is no mean feat, yet that’s exactly what Amanda Keller did this year.

While it may come as no surprise that the effect of this achievement is felt far and wide throughout the industry, it’s Amanda’s fellow females in radio that have been impacted and inspired the most.

Simone Law is a freelance writer and radio enthusiast, and is currently a part of the ACE Radio Network’s Melbourne division. In her own words, here’s what Amanda’s career means to her.

The old adage “nice guys finish last” falls terribly flat when you consider the success of television presenter, media personality and radio host Amanda Keller. Keller was inducted into the Australian Commercial Radio Hall of Fame at the industry’s annual awards ceremony last week, and you would struggle to find a room more excited to witness it.

As Keller’s face dropped into her hands, a tidal wave of industry members rose to their feet to applaud her, not taking their seats until she had ascended the stage. Andrew Denton, Keller’s former colleague and close friend, made a special appearance at the ACRAs to orate on the extent of her successful and wide ranging career, her work ethic and intelligence and, more importantly, the quality of her character.

That Amanda Keller is recognised as one of Australia’s warmest media personalities is no secret. In fact, ‘warm’ was a word mentioned multiple times in the tribute montage aired on the night, featuring the likes of Carrie Bickmore, her radio co-host Brendan Jones, Ray Martin and many other recognisable faces.

The fact is, Keller couldn’t be a more deserving recipient of this honour. You only had to listen to the rapid applause that swelled when it was announced that she was the first female, on-air personality inducted into the Hall of Fame. Most people were probably thinking it was about time, not just for Amanda, but for women to get more of a nod in general.

After all, this award follows the Radio Alive 2017 conference panel discussion on Powerhouse Women in Media – featuring Keller herself, alongside Bickmore, Erin Molan and Susie O’Neil. Their experiences, particularly as women progressing through a male-dominated field, were discussed with candour at a time when both women’s successes and trials have universally come to the fore. For a young woman in the audience, this gathering of talented women was to be relished.

As Amanda spoke of her “imposter syndrome”, or the way she would sometimes let others get to the punch line before her in her early career, more than one head softly nodded. Keller’s admission signals an early lack of confidence, or perhaps a fear that she was not good enough. That she still made the most of every opportunity, persevering despite this self-doubt, only to still be at the top of her game after a career spanning more than 30 years in the media, is an example to all young, similarly self-doubting women.

I have met Amanda on ACRAs nights in previous years, and each time we have taken silly photos together or chatted over a beverage like old friends – despite the fact we are otherwise complete strangers. It is this giving nature, this genuine willingness to connect with anyone, to embrace all that comes her way, that sees her labelled warm and kind, and that has been the secret to her success. Without artifice or ego, Keller has been her ‘daggy’ self.

It made sense when she spoke at the conference about the idea of her ‘personal brand’ emerging organically, without her really putting much emphasis on it. This is not surprising, after all such a focus might otherwise call for an inward looking experience and Keller seems always to be looking outward – whether it be to her family and friends, to her work, to opportunity, and even to strangers at ACRAs after parties at 2am.

As she accepted her Hall of Fame admission with great humility, immense gratitude, a dash of wit and with her signature eloquence – despite being so overwhelmed – another standing ovation broke out within the room. No one could dispute Amanda Keller’s worthiness. It seems nice gals, kind gals, smart gals, even gals who doubt themselves – they can finish first, and they do.

Carmela Contarino has held producer and announcer roles at ARN, Nova and SCA. After almost 10 years in the industry, Amanda’s humble acceptance of her Hall of Fame induction prompted a memory of those some encounters.

I got a big gig in radio at a really young age. I left home at 21, moved to the other side of the country and before I knew it was the co-host of a Western Sydney breakfast show. A show which was part of the same network and in the same office/studio space as Amanda Keller’s breakfast show. This meant that every morning at god-awful o’clock, she was one of the first people I would see.

She was actually one of the first few people in that building to acknowledge me too. She came straight up and introduced herself. Yep, someone as fresh as me could seriously not of been in the presence of a more humble, genuine, just lovely person and I knew I had to soak this up.

So, I watched this woman. I saw how she was constantly strong, yet wonderfully vulnerable at the same time. How when she spoke she held everyone’s attention in the room, without the need to raise her voice or tap dance. How she championed female rights. How she always took the time to listen whenever I was feeling flat, anxious or exposed and how her words of wisdom made perfect sense of it all. It was like drinking a cup of ‘girl power’ kool-aid every time you were near her; incredibly intoxicating and empowering.

When the show I was working on, got bumped to a bigger station but still within the same network and had Amanda and I fighting for the same audience, she did two things that I will never forget.

“I don’t know what they’re offering you, but don’t think you should just take what you’re given. I wouldn’t sell yourself short” was her first piece of advice, and when that same movement was then announced to the wider team, both her and co-host Brendan showed up to that meeting and she said to everyone “It might seem strange that we’re here but we’ve known these guys for while now and it just wouldn’t feel right to not show our support”.

Amanda Keller for many people will be an idol and a mentor but I would also add that she is simply just a straight-up good human too. She showed me early on in this feisty radio game that no matter what your status, power, ratings or pay bracket was, you could always be a good human first. Something I would later find out wasn’t a quality instilled in most radio hosts. In reflection, I could not of had at the time, a better teacher or friend.  So thank you Amanda.

There are many reasons Amanda Keller deserves to be the first female inducted into the ACRA Radio Hall of Fame. She’s a brilliant broadcaster, an extraordinary talent, a super woman of sorts but I think it could be because of stories like mine too and I would bet my left ovary that I’m not the only one with an ‘Amazing Amanda’ story. So let’s indulge this historic moment for a little bit longer shall we?

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