Politics

Millionaire Castaway David Glasheen’s sad confession


Australia’s very own island castaway is celebrating 25 years since he left the bright lights of the city for a life of tropical solitude. But paradise comes with a price.

Australia’s very own island castaway might be isolated from the rest of the world, but that doesn’t mean he’s not connected.

Covid. Russia. Ukraine. He thinks Elon Musk is a “genius”. Despite living on an island reef off the coast of Far North Queensland and having rare face-to-face interaction, he knows it all.

“A tremendous amount has changed in the world,” Mr Glasheen tells news.com.au from his island home.

It’s been four years since we last spoke with Mr Glasheen, who was then mourning the loss of his only mate on the island, a dingo named Polly who succumbed to a death adder snake bite. He’s since befriended a third dingo, Zeddie, who he calls a “beauty”.

“I’ve had a bit of bad luck with dogs and snakes,” Mr Glasheen says, also referencing his first famous dog, Quassi, who was killed in 2016 by a coastal taipan.

Since 2018, he’s written a book, The Millionaire Castaway, which he boasts sold out amid rave reviews. He’s on the precipice of turning 79 in August and despite nearing 80, he says he has no plans of leaving the island he calls home.

“Being on your own is not easy but having a dingo around, at least you can talk to him. He doesn’t answer back much but he’s good, he’s a lot of fun,” Mr Glasheen says, before noting the pitfalls of ageing on a secluded island.

“But he can’t pick up the phone and ring it if I get into trouble.”

Despite his efforts to stay on the island he admits now that he needs some “help”.

“I need backup here. I’m at a time where I’ve had a few misses with broken hips and I had a recent operation with a bloody blood clot. If I’d waited one more day, I’d be dead.

“You only get three of four gos at this, next one, you’re over and out, so I’m a bit cautious today.”

This year marks Mr Glasheen’s 25-year anniversary on the island – and during this time the world has become enraptured by the story of the Australian millionaire turned castaway, who walked away from his life and became Australia’s real life Robinson Crusoe in the 1990s.

“Yeah, so I’m getting there,” he says of his upcoming birthday.

“I don’t want to go anywhere, I don’t want to leave here, the only way I can responsibly stay here until I drop dead is to have a backup team of people.”

According to Mr Glasheen the “physical stuff is getting harder” and he can’t carry as many blocks as he used to.

“I’m not 18 any more, it’s heavier and harder. I fainted one day and then fell and broke my hip. The phones don’t work when you need them half the time, so the best security I could get is more people.

“The wheels start falling off when you’re 80, that’s what happens.”

A stockmarket millionaire in the 1980s, Mr Glasheen was living the high life in Sydney as the chairman of a Sydney-based company which specialised in gold mining in Papua New Guinea.

When he lost millions after the “Black Tuesday” crash in 1987, the next few years would see his life spiral into bankruptcy and a broken family. He divorced his wife in 1991 and made the move to Restoration Island near the tip of Cape York Peninsula in 1997.

“I wish I did it at birth,” he says of his move to the island.

“I wish I’d never been in the city, I wish I was born here in the bushes. We all do the same thing. We leave school. We’re expected to go into our mother or father’s businesses, or take over things from the family, or be doctors, lawyers or accountants or whatever.

“And we did all that. Half of the marriages failed. And you’ve got all the broken families and kids everywhere. And we wonder why every one is a bit dysfunctional.”

He has endured the toughest landscapes in the largest unspoilt wilderness in Northern Australia.

“You’ve got to work with the elements. People assume you turn the tap on and the water comes out. You start to realise it’s not like that. You’re in charge of all that’s here,” he says.

Despite being solitary, Mr Glasheen does welcome visitors to his island (he once hosted Russell Crowe), but, as he puts it, one must be prepared for the unexpected.

“If things go wrong, your life is at risk and you’re really aware of it. The wild is pretty severe; it’s a tough world. Things are forever going wrong, and you’ve just got to deal with it.”

Mr Glasheen says he has made attempts to “get some help out here”, including ads on Gumtree, but has struggled to even find a backpacker.

“They’re just not here,” he says.

He would also welcome a middle-aged couple who have the appropriate skills to help him on the island.

“It’s a great place to be. I love it,” he says, offering to pay people stipends instead of a full salary, “because I can’t afford to pay people a full salary.”

In the meantime, he says he’s busy keeping up with all the “crazy things” going on in the world.

“This is the problem out there, nobody wants to help anybody enough, we want to kill them and steal their resources, particularly the men of the world, the men are the problem,” he says during a conversation about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“The women have got to take over. I wish Putin would realise that he’s failed, he’s lost the war I reckon but he’s still whacking bloody missiles at them.

“We’ve got war crimes, this is happening in front of our bloody eyes on TV every day, every minute.”

Mr Glasheen says he was on the island when he found out about Covid-19 back in March 2020 but that it “didn’t affect me”

“It was quiet as a mouse but it’s quiet as a mouse in the wet season anyway.”

He says despite his isolation and patchy internet connection, “I try to understand what’s going on.

“I’ve been around a long time but there’s a lot more to learn than I know.”

David Glasheen’s book, The Millionaire Castaway, is out now.

Originally published as Millionaire Castaway reveals he needs help on island as he nears 80th birthday



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