SYDNEY – A DJ from India, a journalist from Canada and a German actress were among 16 finalists announced Friday for what's been dubbed the "Best Job in the World" — a $108,000 contract to serve as the caretaker of a tropical Australian island.
Some of the finalists screamed, a few swore and one man from Ireland downed a Victoria Bitter, a popular Australian beer, upon learning they were one step closer to snagging the dream gig — a six-month assignment to swim, explore and relax on Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef while writing a blog to promote the area.
"The Europeans have been partying all night," Tourism Queensland CEO Anthony Hayes said of the finalists from France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom who received the good news Thursday night. "I can't think of many more fun mornings that I've had at work lately."
Nearly 35,000 people from across the world applied for the job, and officials initially planned to select 10 finalists, in addition to a "wild card" candidate previously chosen by the public.
But Hayes decided to expand the short-list to 15 "mostly to stop my staff from killing each other," he said with a laugh. "We just couldn't get to 10."
All 16 hopefuls will be flown to Hamilton Island in early May for formal interviews.
Erik Rolfsen, a 39-year-old online news editor for The Province newspaper in Vancouver, Canada, got the congratulatory call from Queensland Tourism Minister Peter Lawlor while he was toiling away in the newsroom.
"I was thinking basically it was a coin-flip today," Rolfsen told The Associated Press. "I was prepared to have it go either way, but it's always good when it goes the way you want."
Cali Lewis of Dallas, Texas, was waiting at home with her hand inches from the phone when it finally rang.
"I'm a pretty practical person, so I was like 'Cool, yes! All right, OK, now moving on,"' the 28-year-old told the AP.
Lewis, the host and producer of online show GeekBrief.TV, plans to bring her husband Neal if she snags the job, and they hope to continue producing their program.
The finalists also include Anjaan RJ, a 28-year-old radio DJ from Bangalore, India, who is skilled in Bollywood dancing, and 28-year-old Mirjam Novak of Bavaria, Germany, a student and actress who has traveled extensively through Europe, the U.S., Latin America and Africa.
Clare Wang, a skydiving, mountain-climbing interpreter from Taiwan, was chosen by the public last month as the wild card finalist.
The job is part of a AU$1.7 million campaign to publicize the charms of northeastern Queensland, and Hayes said it has already generated more than AU$100 million worth of publicity for the region.
The winner will be announced on May 6, with the job set to begin July 1.