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Have you ever considered being dropped in the middle of the Amazon with nothing for survival—not even your clothes? Or perhaps you have thought about a career as a stunt person?

5 July 2021

For old scholar Ky (Burford) Furneaux (1990) these are just normal activities in her exciting life.

Born in country South Australia, Ky spent much of her childhood enjoying the outdoors, but it was a tragic car accident at 19 years old that catapulted her into the world of survival expeditions and stunt work. ‘I was doing a Bachelor of Business Management and then I broke my back and decided I never wanted to be indoors ever again, so I went into rockclimbing as rehab’, she said.

Ky then spent some time working with Pembroke’s Outdoor Education program and it was on a trip to the Coorong where a student suggested she investigate stunt work as a career. She commented, ‘The irony of it for me was that it was a Pembroke School boy who threw this one-liner out there and I didn’t even know that career existed. If that former student remembers saying that, I would love to thank him!’ Ky spent the next 16 years working on the sets of major motion pictures such as Catwoman, The Avengers and Pirates of the Caribbean.

After years of costumes, wigs and red carpets Ky decided it was time to go back to her outdoor roots. Her first experimental expedition saw her hike across the Sierra Nevada (160 km) for 10 days carrying only a pocket knife. This brave experiment morphed Ky into the next phase of her career as a survivalist and ‘one of life’s fighters and survivors’, as adventurer Bear Grylls describes her.

After many extreme expeditions it became clear to Ky that the survival skills learnt in the harsh environments she was exposed to were lessons to be shared. Today she is a motivational speaker, sharing her lessons of determination and overcoming adversity with audiences across the globe. When asked how the lessons learnt outdoors translate to the workplace or in a school environment, Ky said, ‘We put these limitations on ourselves as well as everybody else, and I feel like we give up before we get to our true limits. But then we get outdoors, and no one is going to pick you up, no one is going to carry your stuff, and you feel that you can’t do it. But you make it to camp and you realise that you are capable of far more. The outdoors delivers lessons really quickly that stay with you’.

After writing her first self-help book, Ky has continued to push herself and learn more about her capabilities. But it was her recent experience on the television show Naked and Afraid where she felt that she was really pushed to her limit. Being dropped in the middle of the Amazon with no clothes and no immediate way of survival for 21 days would do that to you, but for Ky this extreme experience was also where she learnt the biggest lesson of all. She observed, ‘I won the Taurus Stunt Award for Best Female Stunt Performer in the world in 2012 and I still didn’t feel good enough. I’ve fought for amazing actresses and have done some incredible stunts, and at my core I still didn’t feel good enough. So the Amazon—21 days by myself, surviving that and making it out the other end—I walked out of there with the feeling that finally, I was enough.’ So what is Ky’s number one survival tip for everyday life?—

Make every day bet­ter than it was yes­ter­day. Make your­self bet­ter today than you were yes­ter­day. Ask a ques­tion, learn some­thing and know that the per­son that is putting the most lim­i­ta­tions on you is yourself.’

These are inspiring words of wisdom from an old scholar whose positivity and strength is something we could all aspire to in our own lives.

Candace Cox-Tuck
Manager, Old Scholar Engagement