Alone again, naturally: Survival show winner says they could have lasted 20 days more

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Gina Chick, the winner of SBS’s surprise hit Alone Australia, survived on her own in the remote Tasmanian wilderness for 67 days. But, she insists, she was nowhere near finished.

“I would have hit 90 days,” says the 52-year-old, who has with Wednesday night’s finale become the oldest, and only the second female, winner of the survival franchise, which includes nine US seasons (all won by men) and multiple Scandinavian versions as well as this Australian iteration.

Alone Australia winner Gina Chick on the last of her 67 days in the Tasmanian wilderness.Credit: SBS

“I’d just caught a whole bunch of eels and smoked them, so I probably had enough food for another three weeks,” she adds.

Chick, a rewilding specialist from regional New South Wales, triumphed after a 34-day stand-off with Michael Atkinson, a professional survivalist, after the only other remaining contender, veterinarian and devout Christian Michael Wallace, withdrew, having not managed to catch any food in his 33 days in the competition.

The extended, if distant, face-off between the final two is the longest in the history of the series, which pits survival experts against each other as they attempt to live in the wild armed with a limited number of tools.

The race between Chick and Atkinson also served as a showdown between two distinct modes of survival, with Atkinson’s masterful efforts at tool making marking him as the representative of Homo habilis while Chick’s embrace of the natural world on its own terms cast her as more of a Terra Mater (mother Earth).

That, at least, is how it appeared to the viewer. But it’s not quite that simple, insists Riima Daher, the show’s executive producer.

“They were very different people with different approaches but there was a lot of common ground between them as well,” Daher says.

Executive producer Riima Daher flies over the show’s location in western Tasmania.Credit: SBS

Chick agrees. “Mike has an exquisite connection to country as well, he has deep empathy and pathos,” she says. “So while there’s definitely that science versus nature thing, there was a lot more science for me and a lot more nature for him as well than you see on screen.”

One point of difference for which the producers were grateful was that Atkinson’s methodical approach extended to his filmmaking – and given the contestants do all their own camerawork (other than some sweeping location shots), that was a huge gift.

Michael Atkinson displayed remarkable tool-making skills in his time on the show.Credit: ITV Studios Australia

“He provided a lot of the beautiful shots of the series, beautiful timelapses, the skyscapes, and some of those micro-shots as well,” says Daher. “It’s just him noticing beauty in nature. He had a genuine love of the landscape that he was in.”

The sheer volume of footage shot is almost incalculable. Each contestant recorded a minimum of five hours footage per day on each of up to to four cameras. In the case of the final two, that comes to a tally of around 1340 hours each.

Atkinson’s methodical approach meant he would often set up a camera before attempting something; Chick’s more instinctive approach meant she’d follow the moment, sometimes failing to capture it on the camera.

Nowhere was that more evident than when she caught a wallaby with her bare hands while taking a toilet break in the middle of the night. It was the most critical moment of the entire season, and there was precisely zero footage of it.

The cast of Alone Australia at the reunion special.Credit: SBS

“You can imagine what it was like in the edit suite when that footage came in,” says Daher. “There were about 15 people screaming ‘aaargh’.”

That was a game-changing moment in two ways, says Chick. “The first is it was a 20 kilo animal, so now I have meat, I have abundant protein. The morale boost of that, of knowing I have a good three or four weeks of food, was huge.

“The other part was just feeling my relationship with country deepening that much more, in that I asked for what I needed, and the country gave it to me,” she says. “I can’t explain it – voodoo bush magic, whatever you want to call it – but it kept happening.”

The $250,000 prize money will likely be a game changer too, allowing Chick to fulfil the dream of buying the land on which she runs her wilderness retreats. But it isn’t paid out until the finale has aired, and she’s not counting those chickens just yet.

“I had a run-in with a con man when I was younger and learned a very powerful lesson, which is money isn’t real until you have it in your hand – and even then, it’s not that real,” she says. “I haven’t even done anything with it in my mind. It’s just in this great limbo of possibility until it lands.”

What she has thought about, though, is what to do with the profile the show, which has drawn more than 1 million viewers for six of its episodes, most of them on SBS On Demand, will do for her profile, and her sense of mission.

“I’m a writer, that’s in my bones and in my blood, and there’s definitely books on the horizon,” she says. “I’m also a singer-songwriter, I recorded my album in lockdown in 2020 and that’s ready to go, I’ll probably drop that later in the year.”

But above all, she says, she wants to use her visibility to encourage “humans’ innate ability to be at home in the wild”.

She wants, she says, to “inspire people to just take that one more step into discomfort. Hopefully, by seeing my journey people will think ‘maybe I can just take my shoes off in the grass, maybe I will go camping, maybe the kids can build a cubbyhouse in the backyard’.

“All these little steps are, for me, part of what’s missing in our modern lives,” Chick says. “What I really hope is to keep inspiring people to go outside.”

The Alone Australia reunion special airs on SBS at 7.30pm on Thursday.

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