reality tv

Doomsday Prepping With the Real Housewives of Sydney's Lisa Oldfield

"The apocalypse, that's the generic term for when the shit hits the fan... If the shit hits the fan, we're a month away from 'Mad Max.'"

by Maddison Connaughton; photos by Sean Foster
26 April 2017, 1:30am

Lisa Oldfield is running late for our interview. The former model, entrepreneur, and breakout star of the Real Housewives of Sydney hasn't yet made it back from an appearance with Kyle and Jackie O when we arrive at her sprawling Sydney home. Actually maybe "home" isn't the right word for it—"compound" might be more accurate. 

Ringed by a high fence, the Oldfield property is almost entirely off the grid: there's solar power, over 100,000 litres of water, chickens, three rescued racehorses, and vegetable gardens. But none of this is about sustainability. Both Lisa and her husband David—the notorious political operative who helped set up Pauline Hanson's One Nation—are doomsday preppers. And they're readying their home for the possibility that the apocalypse is coming.

The author waiting to be let into the Oldfield home. All photos by Sean Foster

But clearly no one told David there's an article in the works about his family's plan for the end of days. And I'm a little worried. This is the man who Tony Abbott literally called the Judas to his Jesus (after David quit working for him to join Hanson's fledgling party). By the time Lisa sweeps in—surprisingly tall in a red bodycon dress and pearls—he's incensed. 

"The first rule of prepping is that you don't tell people you're a prepper!" David yells at her from the kitchen, where he's making lunch for the couple's two kids on a day off from shooting his own reality show, Hell's Kitchen. Lisa's face breaks into a Cheshire cat grin. "I didn't think you'd be home!" she laughs.

It's not as though the Oldfields don't lay their stormy marriage bare on the Real Housewives. They bicker, they call each other names, they tease the Daily Telegraph with an ever-impending divorce. But as much as people arguing makes for good drama on TV, in real life it's mostly just awkward. So while they go back and forth, debating whether our interview will actually go ahead, I stare into a glass case in the living room, which is home to Lisa's 11-foot python, Shelley, and pretend not to notice.

Lisa and Shelley

Having changed into "something a little more comfortable," Lisa suggests a tour of the property. In a pink chequered cowgirl shirt and designer gumboots, she sets off at a clip down a steep dirt path, past an obstacle course they've set up for their young sons, complete with scramble nets and tires. I'm struck by a mental image of her running time trials with the boys, yelling they're not moving fast enough to outrun whatever apocalyptic horror is upon them.

Down in the back paddock we take a seat, overlooking a rather idyllic scene: her three rescued racehorses grazing peacefully, her sons playing in a puddle behind the shed. Lisa points to the shed and tells us there's a nine-foot snake living in there that she rescued. "I'm curious," I begin, keeping one eye on the snake shed. "When you guys say, 'the apocalypse', that's quite a big idea…" I trail off. "It's the biggest idea," smirks David, who's wandered down from the house to join us, and perhaps keep tabs on where the conversation goes.

Lisa loves her three rescued racehorses. "They're also a great alternative food source come the apocalypse," she jokes.

Lisa seems less sure about it all. More glamorous alpha-mum than die hard survivalist, she looks completely at odds with her apocalypse-proof surrounds. "I feel like Ava Gabor off Green Acres," she admits. "I've gone from the city life to having all these animals, all these kids. This animal…" She motions to David. I think about Pauline Hanson's claim they had an affair during the One Nation years—a claim David strongly rejects—and wonder how strange it must be for your personal life to be public record.

"I guess [the apocalypse,] that's the generic term for when the shit hits the fan," Lisa qualifies. Her trademark grin fades. "My biggest fears are a terrorist attack or a pandemic, that's what worries me." With the comfort of a couple who've been together for more than 15 years, she and David drop into a back-and-forth, listing off all the things that could usher in said apocalypse. "The grid going down," David suggests. "Yeah, the grid going down," Lisa jumps in. "The grid going down through some, you know, terrorist attack," he continues.

"A lot of people don't understand the ramifications of [the grid going down]… you know, the supermarkets lose their power," he says. "You can't get cash out of a bank," Lisa adds. "Very few people can last more than a few days," David says solemnly. "We actually have a friend who will go unnamed, but is a minister in the state government," Lisa says, leaning in conspiratorially. "He literally said, 'If the shit hits the fan, we're a month away from Mad Max.'"

Torches, firearms, walkie-talkies. All general survival gear preppers need.

Beyond the massive rainwater tank and the solar power, David explains the Oldfields have been stockpiling other supplies too. "The main mantra is "weapons, water, food"—in that order," he says. "We have large food supplies, we do have guns, and copious amounts of ammunition—they're spread throughout the house." 

In terms of scale, we've been told there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of cans of food spread around the property, much of it in the attic, which has been converted into a makeshift fallout shelter. But we aren't allowed to see any of it: the attic is far too messy, Lisa apologises. David shuts down the idea of even taking a photo holding tinned food.

A very nondescript photo of the attic sent to me by a publicist

My creeping worry that maybe the Oldfields aren't really preppers flares up. Both reality TV stars, they are a couple acutely aware that intrigue is their currency. Perhaps those boxes in the attic, the one in the photo their publicist sent me, were just filled with Christmas decorations or scrapbooking supplies or whatever other shit rich people put in their attics. 

At least I wonder about this until David shows us the plans for their renovation. Later in the day, after we've gone back to the real world, our photographer will text me about these mock ups: "The plans are insane," he'll write. "This place is going to be a fortress."

What's in the works at the Oldfield's house

David explains they'll soon be knocking the house down and completely rebuilding. "A prep-based house," he says. "We're not "prepped for the apocalypse" as such at this point in time. But we will be—presuming it doesn't happen before we rebuild." The new house will be completely self-sufficient, including hydro power and, according to Lisa, a bunker. "It will have designated areas that relate to prepping," David adds. "Both to do with ammunition manufacture, because I do make my own ammunition."

I wonder what led the Oldfields to the point where they were willing to spend what's likely millions of dollars on apocalypse-proofing their home. Amidst the super wealthy though, they certainly aren't alone—Silicon Valley executives are apparently buying up luxury fallout shelters across the US, and around the world, faster than anyone can build them. This includes billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who's perhaps best known for funding Hulk Hogan's sex tape lawsuit against Gawker Media. But David rejects this as an inspiration. "We're ahead of the trend," he counters. "We've been preparing what I'm telling you about now for a couple of years."

Lisa traces it all back to an episode of another reality show, Doomsday Preppers. "Initially we were kind of laughing at it thinking, these guys are whack jobs. This guy can't even walk up the fucking stairs, how is he going to survive the apocalypse?" she says. "You know, they are usually morbidly obese." But slowly they started picking up tips from the show, and extra cans of food at the supermarket.

The boys' obstacle course

What becomes clear during our conversation is that the Lindt Cafe siege was a real tipping point for David, and particularly for Lisa—it justified an amorphous fear they'd carried around for a long time. "I knew Katrina Dawson very well, from the… the Lindt Cafe terrorist attack," Lisa says, looking down to her hands folded in her lap. "I think that also frightened me. I knew I was safe at home but then I started to think, How could I get home, if something like that happened?" She now carries a bug out bag with her everywhere she goes: flat shoes, muesli bars, a couple bottles of water, a portable charger, torch, and a hunting knife.

"These days, the Sydney CBD could go into lockdown and anything could take place. It doesn't take very much: it could be in the form of a dirty bomb. It doesn't have to be nuclear," David says. "And then, of course, there's the ensuing panic of the public at large." Lisa nods, and they fall back into their back-and-forth. "I think it's not trusting other people," she says. "It's having trust in what we know other people will be like when they're in trouble," he adds, "and that is, they'll be like animals."

Saying goodbye to Shelley

"Krissy Marsh [from the Real Housewives] hates me as it is. But if Krissy Marsh and her ugly zombie children are starving [after the apocalypse] I know they're going to be clawing at the gate wanting my food," Lisa says, "and I'll have to put a bullet through them." I am fairly sure she's joking.

Lisa recalls a recent conversation with another Real Housewives co-star, Athena X. "Athena is one of my best friends," she explains. "But I said to her, 'There are no hospitals, your kid is sick—he's cut his arm—how do you treat him? You've got no medical training.' 'Oh, I'll just Google it.' 'Athena, you know if there's no electricity, there's no fucking internet.' When you think back, everything that she was reliant on, everything they are all reliant on…" Lisa trails off. "…is all reliant on somebody else, rather than themselves," David says, finishing the thought.

"A lot of people will think we're loony," he says, looking out across the paddock. Lisa laughs, "I'd rather be a loony and alive." David nods, hands on his hips, "I'd rather be seen as a loon in the short term and alive in the long term."

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