Australian Survivor became the first Survivor edition in the worldwide franchise to cast a non-binary contestant, though Phil Ferguson, the 28-year-old Melbourne-based Insta-famous crochet artist, was the first contestant voted off of the latest season of the show in an absolutely brutal twist that no one in the tribe saw coming. 

Ferguson, started making their crazy crochet creations in 2014 as a way of connecting with the community around them, which then led to a growing social media following with almost 140,000 followers and a coveted blue tick verification on Instagram. 

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Their quirky and cute crocheting has been featured in publications including Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Frankie Magazine, BBC and on Instagram’s official account.

“I’m straight up, I’m pretty honest. I’m a Scorpio, they’re loyal. Because of my ability to understand people and read them, I’ll be able to make any sort of plan happen,” Phil said before the action started to hot up on the show.

And it’s REALLY hot up there (and then really COLD) in Cloncurry Queensland, where this season of Australian Survivor: Brains vs Brawn was filmed. 

Lack Of Representation

This is Australian Survivor’s sixth season, but the popular reality television show has been slow to include members of the LGBTQI community and people of colour in its casting process.

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The show’s host Jonathon LaPaglia had told ABC’s Stop Everything in 2019 that even he felt like something wasn’t right, agreeing that the cast was “very whitewashed”. The 2021 cast is the most diverse so far.

The main Survivor franchise has stumbled a few times with it’s casting choices as well. In 2017, a transgender contestant, Zeke Smith, was outed without their consent by another tribe member at a tribal council. 

The LGBTQI community has been slightly better represented in Australian Survivor series, with contestants including out lesbian ex-AFLW player Moana Hope competing in 2018, and Peter Conte in 2017, who was accidentally outed by editing choices made and aired by the production team that year.

Ferguson’s inclusion in this year’s Australian Survivor as a non-binary contestant has become a topic of social media discussion, and will definitely educate and inform, especially those who may not be aware of the fact that just because someone sports a wicked moustache, doesn’t necessarily mean they identify as he/him.

SPOILER ALERT!

It appeared going into the first tribal council of the season that Ferguson was definitely safe, as they’d already made an impression with their affable nature, joyful personality and a quirky crocheted crocodile hat, which was left behind as a team mascot.

Unfortunately what transpired next shocked everyone on the team, with politician George pulling out a secret advantage which gave him the power to take half the tribe with him back to camp!

It quickly dawned that it included the person that the tribe had previously decided to send home. This left the remaining tribe members to scramble to come up with a plan and with no chance to strategise, predictably, the sole creative person left behind was picked off first!

Because Ferguson was only part of the tribe for a short time, they didn’t get a chance to disclose their preferred pronouns to the team, a point they were quick to make online when folks started questioning why the tribe were using incorrect pronouns.

It’s easy to see though that if Ferguson had had a chance to really get into the game, their unique talents and value to the team would have taken them very far in the competition. “After getting reached out to by various alumni, I had the realisation that I didn’t just film some random tv thing and forget it, but I am actually a part of the larger Survivor family and thats really nice!” Ferguson said.

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