There’s a slim chance of becoming a lighthouse keeper in Australia. Based on the fact that there are around 350 lighthouses across the country and a population of 24 million, it’s not a career one would encourage the kids at school to pursue.
But Paul Sofilas, Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse Interp. Officer (and site manager) was clearly unperturbed by the figures when he applied for a role at the lighthouse back in 1999. Paul had trained in accounting then worked in the mining sector but found himself spending an increasing amount of time in Augusta – walking and mountain-biking the Cape to Cape. He heard through friends about a job at the lighthouse, was interviewed for the role at Lake Cave and got a call that night that he’d been successful. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Paul’s career at the tallest lighthouse in mainland Australia.
Paul grew up in Bunbury but frequently holidayed with his family in Augusta. Growing up, Paul didn’t really think about a long-term career, but he always had a fascination with storms and loved nature. Paul clearly remembers one of his first childhood books being Tintin’s ‘The Black Island’ – which had a lighthouse on the cover set on a rock in Scotland.
“It was my first Tintin story which I loved,” he says. “My godmother bought it for me and it’s kind of funny because it was one of my favourite books and years later I end up living at a lighthouse.”
In the early days at the lighthouse, before Paul first moved in as the caretaker, he didn’t own a car.
“I rode to work each day and in winter got to experience seeing the whales in the bay, and ride against pretty strong headwinds,” he says. “I suppose I got a real feel for the whole environment.”