Australia’s castaway celebrates 25 years since he left the bright lights of the city for a life of tropical solitude. But paradise has a price.
Australia’s castaway may be isolated from the rest of the world, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t 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 personal interaction, he knows everything.
“A lot has changed in the world,” Mr Glasheen tells news.com.au from his home country.
It’s been four years since we last spoke to Mr Glasheen, who was then mourning the loss of his only partner on the island, a dingo named Polly who had succumbed to a snakebite from the Death Adder. He has since befriended a third dingo, Zeddie, whom he calls a “beauty.”
“I’ve had a bit of bad luck with dogs and snakes,” says Mr Glasheen, also referring to his first famous dog, Quassi, who was killed by a taipan on the coast in 2016.
Since 2018 he has written a book, The Millionaire Castaway, which he boasts sold out amid rave reviews. He is about to turn 79 in August and despite being nearly 80, he says he has no intention of leaving the island he calls home.
“It’s not easy being alone, but if you have a dingo around, at least you can talk to him. He doesn’t answer much, but he’s good, he’s a lot of fun,” Mr Glasheen says, before noting the pitfalls of getting older on a remote island.
“But he can’t pick up the phone and call if I get in trouble.”
Despite his best efforts to stay on the island, he now admits that he needs some “help”.
‘I need reinforcements here. I’m in a time where I’ve had a few misses with broken hips and I recently had surgery with a bloody blood clot. If I had waited another day, I would have been dead.
“You only get here three times out of four, the next, you’re over and out, so I’m a little careful today.”
This year marks Mr Glasheen’s 25th anniversary on the island – and during this time the world has been entranced by the story of the Australian millionaire who went on the run, who left his life and in the 1990s the real Became Australian Robinson Crusoe.
“Yeah, so I’m coming,” 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 work is getting harder and harder” and he can no longer carry as many blocks as he used to.
“I’m not 18 anymore, it’s heavier and harder. I passed out one day and then fell and broke my hip. The phones don’t work if you need them half the time so the best security I can get is more people.
“The wheels start to fall off when you’re 80, that’s what happens.”
A millionaire in the stock market in the 1980s, Mr Glasheen lived a good life in Sydney as chairman of a Sydney-based company specializing in gold mining in Papua New Guinea.
When he lost millions after the ‘Black Tuesday’ crash in 1987, his life would turn into bankruptcy and a broken family for the next few years. He divorced his wife in 1991 and moved to Restoration Island near the tip of Cape York Peninsula in 1997.
“I wish I did at birth,” he says of his move to the island.
“I wish I’d never been to the city, I wish I’d been born here in the bushes. We all do the same. We’re leaving the school. We’re expected to go into our mother’s or father’s companies, or take over from the family, or be doctors, lawyers, or accountants, or whatever.
“And we have all done that. Half of the marriages ended. And you’ve got all the broken homes and kids everywhere. And we wonder why everyone is a little dysfunctional.”
He has endured the toughest landscapes in Northern Australia’s largest pristine wilderness.
“You have to work with the elements. People assume that you turn on the tap and the water comes out. You begin to realize that it is not so. You are in charge of everything here,” he says.
Despite being lonely, Mr Glasheen welcomes visitors to his island (he once hosted Russell Crowe), but, as he puts it, one must be prepared for the unexpected.
“If something goes wrong, your life is in danger and you are really aware of that. The wilderness is quite severe; it’s a hard world. Things always go wrong, and you just have to deal with that.”
Mr Glasheen says he has made efforts to “get some help here”, including advertising on Gumtree, but has struggled to even find a backpacker.
“They’re just not there,” he says.
He would also welcome a middle-aged couple who have the right skills to help him on the island.
“It’s a great place to be. I think it’s great,” 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 is busy with all the ‘crazy things’ that are happening in the world.
“This is the problem out there, nobody wants to help anyone enough, we want to kill them and steal their resources, especially the men of the world, the men are the problem,” he says during a conversation about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. †
“The women have to take over. I wish Putin would realize he’s failed, that he’s lost the war, I guess, but he’s still firing damn missiles at them.
“We have war crimes, this happens every day, every minute before our bloody eyes on TV.”
Mr Glasheen says he was on the island when he learned about Covid-19 in March 2020 but it “didn’t affect me”
“It was very quiet, but still very quiet in the wet season.”
Despite his isolation and poor internet connection, he says, “I’m trying to understand what’s going on.
“I’ve been around for 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 the island as he turns 80