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Page last updated at 13:47 GMT, Wednesday, 6 May 2009 14:47 UK
Q&A: Fantasy island job winner

After 34,000 applicants, a British man has been chosen to be an island caretaker on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Ben Southall will live there rent-free, working little more than 12 hours a month and earning £70,000 a year. He's been talking to Newsbeat reporter Tracy Ollerenshaw.

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Ben Southall: 'I hope my swimming is up to standard'

Why did they pick you, do you think?

I have, over the last six to 10 years, done quite a lot of different things. I haven't stuck at a single career. I've been an event manager. I've gone out there and organised my own expedition. I've raised lots of money for charity. I do a heck of a lot of things involving fitness, in swimming, in running and I think I've just got a broad spectrum of things that appealed to the panel of judges.

I really put myself out as the individual that I am. I've been honest as much as I can and I think they like the person they came across. I'm extremely happy. I'm extremely thankful they've chosen me because I now get a chance to lap up what Queensland and the [Great] Barrier Reef have got to offer over the next six months.

Is it right that you're only going to work 12 hours a month?

I don't believe that is right at all. I think there's going to be a heck of a lot more than that. I have had, in three days, great experiences here sampling some of the things the Barrier Reef's got to offer. There are 2,900 miles (4,667km) of Barrier Reef.

I would have taken the package if they'd offered to just pay my board and my food
Ben Southall on his £70,000 a year salary

I want to explore virtually every one of those. And that's going to involve a heck of a lot of things. There's sailing, trying to get out there and snorkel, to dive all these different areas, to climb some of the highest parts of the national park. I like getting out and exploring and this is going to give me the best opportunity to do that. If it's there on the table, I'm going to lap it up, I can tell you.

What's in the job description?

It was a very simple job description initially. It was writing a daily blog, which will probably become a weekly blog. It's going to be feeding the fish, it's going to be delivering the mail. All of these different things make up this fantasy job role. But there is a lot more to it than that. I am out here as an ambassador for Tourism Queensland trying to sell as much as possible of this great place to the rest of the world and that's really what my role is going to be over the next six months.

Are you going to be stranded on this island on your own?

No. People have got this idea of it being a quiet little desert island. That's the whole castaway thing with Tom Hanks. That's not what the Great Barrier Reef's all about. Hamilton island, where I'm on at the moment, is a five-star luxury resort which has got 1,500 people that live on here, some really lovely areas, some golf courses, some big swimming pools. It really has got a lot more than people think it has.

Ben Southall
Ben Southall, 34, is a charity fundraiser from Hampshire

There are another 600 islands to go and find out about. Some of those are deserted. Some are those have got luxury resorts on. Some of those are designed for the backpackers.

So that's where I really started my travels and I'm looking forward to getting out and meeting those sort of people as well. It's the whole broad spectrum from really living on the beach in a tent to living in a five-star luxury resort. There's a lot to choose from.

The wages don't sound too shabby either, do they?

The wages sound alright, don't they at the moment? That's just the icing on the cake really. I would have taken the package if they'd offered to just pay my board and my food. But having that as a bonus at the end of it will give me the opportunity, I hope, to do a complete lap of Australia. I did Africa last year and Australia is just the next one to take on. So, [I'm] looking forward to having a lovely salary at this very difficult time in the UK as well.

I bet some of your mates hate you at the moment, don't they?

Well they hate me but they also love me, or they tell me they love me, because they want to come out and join me. I've got three or four people that mentioned that they want to come out fairly soon. I think Christmas is going to be a busy time with friends and family due as well.

Ben Southall was talking to Newsbeat reporter Tracy Ollerenshaw.



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