Stephanie Bendixsen Explores Our Backyard

Acclaimed and well-loved presenter, videogame critic and author Stephanie Bendixsen, considered herself well-travelled before she began working on National Geographic’s Only in Oz series.

“The show really awakened me to the true spiritual heart of Australia – it’s people and places,” says Bendixsen.

“It was also a huge privilege to meet some amazing people. People who embraced me, welcomed me into their homes, their lives and their hearts.”

Bendixsen says the show is a huge departure from anything she has done thus far.

“My work has always been in video games and technology – but I live in the Blue Mountains and I love being around nature.”

Steph Bendixsen holding a dinosaur fossil.
Story: Clash of the Titanosaurs

For Bendixsen the highlights have included discovering a prolific dinosaur stomping ground in outback Queensland, a kelpie training farm in country Victoria and learning about the grisly history of the wreck of the Batavia while staying on a spooky island off the west Australian coast.

The aftermath of the wreck of the Batavia in 1629 – with 125 men, women and children murdered by mutineers when the skipper left to get help in Jakarta is one of the most horrendous chapters in Australian history.

“Looking at the skeletons, some of them children, it was like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean,” she says.

“One man, Jeronimus Cornelisz went crazy and got his thugs to kill so many people. Much of the ship and the story has been preserved, including a mace that was used to bash people’s heads in. It was super spooky.”

Stephanie Bendixsen in front of human remains of the Batavia shipwreck murders in UWA laboratory.
Story: Island of Terror

Stephanie’s first shoot for the show was on a sheep and cattle station in Eromanga in outback Queensland.

“It was the first time I’d ever been in the outback. You could drive for 1 ½ hours in any direction and still be on the station. When I went for a run it was like being on a treadmill.”

The Eromanga Natural History is home to Australia’s largest dinosaur, a 95-98 million-year-old titanosaur (a new genus) called ‘Cooper’. He is one of a number of significant fossil discoveries made on the station.

“They can’t keep up with dinosaurs they’re finding there. You would think palaeontologists would be flying in from all over the world to help out, but that’s not the case – there’s not a lot of money in it.

“So the locals have got together and have done what they can to preserve these incredible finds, part of the rich geological heritage of Australia.”

(Left to Right) Stephanie Bendixsen holding a puppy next to Paul Macphail and other dogs.
Story: Kelpie Classroom

Victoria’s Beloka Kelpie Stud  is a training school for these highly intelligent Aussie working dogs – and their owners.

“Many people, particularly owners in the city don’t realise how much energy these wonderful dogs have and have no idea how to handle them – they are so intelligent and they need a job to do.”

“It was a learning experience too; about how vital these dogs are to farmers. They are worth four human workers and without them farmers would not be able to survive.”

Stephanie says working on Only in Oz has given her a new appreciation of her own backyard - Australia.

“I value being able to learn about a world outside my own. I had not given Australia the attention it deserves. It’s so unique in terms of the flora and fauna and it’s important to show people how diverse it is and how amazing it is in our own backyard.

“The reward is coming away with such wonderful memories - Being able to work for National Geographic is a dream come true.”

Lead Image: Stephanie Bendixsen sitting on a tractor holding a puppy next to other dogs.
Story: Kelpie Classroom

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