For the next six months, Brighton man Richard Keam will spend his days drinking fine wine, exploring boutique breweries, eating at gourmet restaurants and hunting the freshest fish off Western Australia’s pristine coastline. And he will get paid to do it, after winning the role of Taste Master, one of the roles branded by Tourism Australia as the best jobs in the world.
Australia’s tourism body announced the seven winners of their campaign on Friday, after 339,000 applicants had been whittled down to 18 finalists.
The competition, promoting Australia’s attractions on a six-month, $A100,000 (£60,000) contract, offered six jobs, each in a different state or territory: chief funster (New South Wales), lifestyle photographer (Victoria), wildlife caretaker (South Australia), park ranger (Queensland), outback adventurer (Northern Territory) and taste master (Western Australia). Campaign partner Virgin Australia last week announced a seventh position of “high flyer”.
Keam, a former Imagination Institute host at Disneyland Paris who also has “magician” on his CV, beat German Julian Button and Rebecca Morris from the US to become the designated taste master, promoting the produce of WA.
The other winners were Allan Dixon (Ireland), Andrew Smith (US), Roberto Seba (Brazil), Elisa Detrez (France) and Greg Snell (Canada).
The 18 finalists have had a whirlwind fortnight travelling throughout Australia taking on challenges, so much so that Keam thinks winning the coveted role might give him a bit of a rest.
Despite being in competition the contestants grew close, especially during moments of inevitable homesickness.
“You’ve got to help each other because it’s so tough,” Keam said. “There hasn’t been much down time.”
Not that he’s complaining. “We’re having an absolute blast. Blimey, there’s just so much to see.”
“The highlight was definitely [swimming with] the whale sharks. It blew my mind. I knew it was going to be good but I didn’t know it was going to be absolutely amazing. I was scared actually.”
As well as the lucrative contract, Keam accepted his own “pinny” on stage at the Sydney event. “Blimey. I’ve got my own pinny – apron! Thank you Western Australia!”
Keam told Guardian Australia he didn’t get to break the news to his wife. By the time he called her she had already found out via Twitter. They were very excited, even a little teary, he said.
The family will move to Perth when the contract starts, and Keam hopes to show his four-month-old son what life can be like.
“It’ll be a whole new experience. I just want to show him that if you want to do something you can just go for it, and believe in yourself,” he said.
In the first campaign, in 2009, Briton Ben Southall landed the job of ‘island caretaker’, living on Queensland’s Hamilton Island.
Southall, who has remained in Australia since his contract ended more than two years ago and is applying for citizenship, compered this year’s announcement, telling the successful seven: “You can now go home and say to your boss, ‘I quit. I now have one of the best jobs in the world.’ It’s a good feeling.”
The $4 million campaign aims to market Australian working holiday visas to young people around the world.
Tourism Australia’s managing director, Andrew McEvoy, said promoting the visa program was at the heart of the campaign, as it gave visitors the economic means to travel here.
“The youth market contributes more than a quarter of all Australia’s international arrivals. These are visitors who tend to stay longer, disperse widely and often come back again, with their families, later in their lives,” he said.
A survey for the tourism body found 72% of the applicants for the best jobs were planning to apply for a working holiday visa.