How to Survive in the Australian Outback (ABC Landline)

Landline is ABC TV’s national rural issues program. This week’s Landline episode is all about how to survive in the Australian outback. I’ll be watching the show and adding the top tips to improve your safety when travelling in the outback to this review.

Rainbow Valley Northern Territory

I love to travel, especially to remote places off the beaten track where only serious travelers venture (not tourists). View examples of photos I’ve taken on holidays in the Australian Outback in this article to see what I mean.

Almost 25 years ago, two young jackaroos abandoned jobs on the outback stations where they were working and headed, on foot, into the heat of the Gibson Desert – without so much as a water bottle or hat. That is where the pair died.

sunrise Australian outback

Teenagers James Annetts, 16, and Simon Amos, 17, had started work at Flora Valley Station, about 100 kilometres east of Halls Creek. After only seven weeks they were sent to be caretakers at properties more than 100 kilometres apart.

Then, for reasons which will never be known, or understood, the two young men – who had no idea about desert survival – left their caretaking posts and walked to their deaths.

So how could this have happened and is it likely this is a tragedy which could happen again, nearly a quarter of a century later? Outback survival expert Bob Cooper knows it can.

The desert is unforgiving and if you don’t know how to react it can, and it will, kill you.

Yet the outback continues to draw people, not just workers but many more tourists, in their thousands, most with very little idea of the risks they are really taking.

In a interview on ABC TV’s 7.30 Report in 2005 Cooper explained how heat stress and dehydration can cause a person stranded in a high temperature environment to make crazy decisions:

BOB COOPER: “We’ve had people walk along the track and throw their hat away. They haven’t put it in their pocket. They’ve discarded it completely. Then they’ve taken their shirt off and thrown it away. You must be out of your mind to do that in 40 degree heat.

The year 2000 we put a guy called Ken Bradshaw, the extreme wave rider of the world, into a heat chamber in the Wollongong University. He was on a slow cycle on an exercise bike in 40 degree temperature. An extremely fit person.

He lost just under two litres of body fluid in 90 minutes. So in an hour and a half he lost two litres of water. That’s enough to impair your ability to think clearly by 30 per cent”.

An ABC Landline crew recently spent a week in the Pilbara bush, working alongside Cooper during a training course designed to equip participants with the minimum skills they need to survive.

Cooper said people who complete the survival course come from all walks of life and were mainly made up of people wanting to step out of their comfort zones.

They might be sunburnt, they might lose weight, they might be dehydrated, But if they take everything in the course on board, remember it and use it, they will be alive.

The survival expert said he hoped people watching this Landline special would be educated in how to survive some of the toughest terrain on the planet – or at least be aware of the dangers involved.

Aerial view Oodnadatta track

He said some of the most important steps someone needs to take to survive in the outback include:

  • to always make a plan
  • rational thinking
  • prioritising your needs
  • stay with your car
  • not sipping water but to drink at least a cup at a time

Learn How to Survive in the Australian Outback by watching Landline on ABC1 TV Sunday October 4 12pm. Also repeated on ABC1 Monday October 5th 6pm and ABC2 Monday October 5th 630pm.

For more information on the outback survival course visit Bob Cooper Survival

2 thoughts on “How to Survive in the Australian Outback (ABC Landline)”

  1. As an Australian who has travelled the outback, I agree, it is a dangerous place without a good plan.

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