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Profile: Drifting from Australia to Asia

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: Anthony Cameron, originally from Melbourne, Australia has led an interesting life compared to most.

Escaping from Melbourne in his early twenties to central Victoria, he designed and built a sustainable house and raised two sustainable children, before finally settling in Phuket in 2012. Over the years, Tony has worked as a sound engineer, fruit picker, tour manager, teacher, factory worker and artist. And most recently he has published his second book, Butterfly on Bangla.

As a creative person, Tony has always managed to find a way to record his experiences, whether in journals or on scraps of paper found at sound gigs. His habit formed in a very organic way when he was young.

“I used to play sports a lot when I was a kid, and when I was about 13 or 14, I stopped playing all that and took up surfing… Problem was, I lived 200km from the beach, so I started trekking there and hanging out in the sand dunes and writing about my experiences,” he says.

“It was an incredibly long trip to get there – three trains; you had to run between the trains to get to each one. Most of my friends weren’t allowed to come. We were in school and my mum didn’t actually know I was doing it. I would leave at five o’clock in the morning and come home at seven at night.”

Whilst in hospital in late 1989, and faced with losing his right arm, he wrote his first short story, The Raffle, with his left hand. This became one of the threads he would later weave into Driftwood, his first full-length novel.

“I was pretty isolated for about three or four weeks because I had a staph [bacterial] infection. When I wasn’t watching movies, I would tilt the TV screen around so I could see underneath the door and watch the shadows of the people’s feet moving. So I realized I was probably going a bit insane and I started writing,” he recalls.

When the pain was too bad for him to write, he recorded what he called his ‘stir crazy hospital ramblings’ onto a Sony Walkman. He maintains, upon listening months later to the recordings, that there were at least three different voices on the tape, depending on how medicated he was at the time.

After the accident, Tony began working as a freelance sound technician, which took him all over Australia, from beer barns to concert halls.

“I guess I was looking for a place after my accident where I could combine something creative and also something physical,” he says.

“That industry is full of people that don’t fit in… I love that sort of short connection – no kind of obligations. When you meet someone doing a show, you work with them for one or two days, or maybe even a week, and then it’s over, so you kind of make the best of that moment.”

Tony also makes this parallel with living in Phuket with the ever-flowing stream of expats and tourists coming and going.

For him, making the ‘best of the moments’, means lots of writing. His first novel, Driftwood, was loosely autobiographical:

“It was written in three-months, but it took me 40 years to live,” he laughs.

His newest novel, Butterfly on Bangla, is set in Patong and Castlemaine, the small town of his early adult years. It follows a troubled man, Tyson, running from a past he can barely remember; one that killed everyone he loved and everything he was. He meets a gnarly old sculptor on a beach, and together they begin a journey that both of them, unbeknownst to the other, have waited half a life time for.

Not too far removed, though not so old or gnarly, Tony’s other passion includes collecting washed up lighters and pieces of driftwood from the island’s beaches to create beautiful sculptures and functional art.

“I’ve been a scrounger all my life… Scrounging is part of my nature,” he says.

Tony’s art can be seen at, or in his Etsy shop ‘Maailay Art’

Both of his novels are available on Amazon –

— Katie P Arnold


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