Reaching for the star
Jules Lund turned around his troubled teenage life through Reach programs, writes Colin Vickery
ASK anyone who knew Hole in the Wall and Getaway’s Jules Lund when he was 15 and there’s no way they’d have predicted he’d be a star on television. They thought he was headed for trouble.
Back then Lund (above) had, by his own admission, gone ‘‘off the rails’’. He was a wild child, indulging in destructive behaviour that alienated friends and family and got him into trouble with the law.
The story of how Lund, 29, turned his life around is inspiring.
The youngest of four children, he had always been an extrovert, but something went haywire when he reached his teens. By years 7 and 8 he was destroying his reputation as a gifted student and talented artist.
‘‘I had wonderful parents but I made so many bad decisions — in being destructive, in being dishonest, in being greedy— all just for the rush and thrill of it,’’ he says.
‘‘These led to some pretty bad things. In order to feel I belonged, I’d do anything. Many teachers would have loved to boot me out of school and never see me again.’’
Lund’s low point came when he received a five-year bond for graffiti vandalism. His future looked bleak. A breakthrough came when thenAFL footballer Jim Stynes and Paul Currie, co-founders of fledgling youth organisation Reach Youth (the Reach Foundation), ran a motivational workshop for 150 students at Lund’s school, Malvern’s De La Salle College.
When he tried to disrupt the workshop, they challenged him.
‘‘He was being a smarta---, using humour to put people down and make them feel uncomfortable,’’ Stynes recalls.
‘‘He said, ‘People shouldn’t give a s---, who cares anyway?’ So I said, ‘Stand up’. When I asked his name, he said ‘Rupert’, just to keep the funnyman thing going.
‘‘I said, ‘Tell me who you really are — the real you’, and he found it really difficult to answer.
‘‘I said, ‘You don’t realise it but you’re a natural leader of this group, but the problem is you don’t see it. And when you do lead, it’s in a very negative way.’’
The words struck a chord with Lund (‘‘It was like a compliment but also a punch in the face,’’ he says now) and he decided to attend a Reach course with about 30 other troubled teens. They were made to think about who they really were, acknowledge their feelings — fears, wants, anger — and to take responsibility for their actions.
A stint as a facilitator at a Reach camp brought Lund face to face with the dark side of teenage depression.
Taking part were several psychiatric patients.
‘‘These kids were all locked up to the point where they had to be stripsearched before they went to their cells because they’d try to kill themselves or cut themselves,’’ Lund says. ‘‘I remember this gorgeous 15-year-old girl who would sew razor blades into her Levi’s so they wouldn’t be detected.
‘‘I wasn’t much older than them, and on this camp they were determined to hurt themselves at every opportunity.
‘‘They were trying to jump in front of cars, trying to swim out. We’d find broken glass in their beds.
‘‘I couldn’t believe there were kids out there who hated themselves so much they were ready to turn off the lights and check out.’’
Lund’s Reach experience turned things around.
He realised other kids had challenges far greater than his and that, with a positive attitude, he could help troubled teens.
He also made friends, including Austereo’s Sam Cavanagh and Channel 31’s Josh Schmidt, who have stayed close to him since.
He flourished at school, became the visual arts captain and dux in several subjects by year 12. He did school and community talks for Reach while studying for a degree in graphic design.
At 19, Lund decided he wanted to be a counsellor but realised he needed life experience. He and Schmidt decided to backpack around the world — 16 countries in eight months — which he describes as a ‘‘terrifying, sensational adventure’’.
In the US, the pair did the talkshow circuit, attending tapings of shows by Jerry Springer and Ricki Lake. TV presenting seemed an option and Lund decided being a presenter on Getaway, which could combine his love of travel and television, would be the ideal job.
After some success on radio, he spent $10,000 on a show reel, sent it to Channel 9 and soon scored a gig.
He has been a Getaway reporter since 2004. He was also the clear audience favourite on Torvill and Dean’s Dancing on Ice and has hosted Big Questions, Things to Try Before You Die, The Logies Red Carpet Arrivals and Hole in the Wall, which was a ratings hit when it premiered on Nine last week and will return to the schedule after the Olympics.
Despite his success, Lund remains committed to doing work for the Reach Foundation.
‘‘All my best friends are from Reach,’’ he says. ‘‘Reach is such a phenomenal environment where you feel supported enough to peel back the layers and delve deep into your hopes, fears and dreams.
‘‘Along with (fiancee) Anna (Dusek), it’s my whole world.’’
WEDDING bells will ring later this year when Jules Lund and long-time girlfriend Anna Dusek tie the knot. The pair were engaged in January.
Lund and Dusek met about 10 years ago when each was backpacking through Europe. They linked up in Barcelona and spent time in Paris, but Lund insists they weren’t interested in each other romantically.
‘‘It wasn’t until I met her again at a party back here in Australia a few months later that I thought, ‘Wow, what was I thinking? She’s gorgeous’,’’ he says. ‘‘We chatted that night and hit it off on a completely different level. We’ve been together since.
‘‘Anna is so pure. To me, she’s like sunshine. She giggles and she has endless energy. You never have a dull moment around her. She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, she appreciates the simple things in life. I’m a very lucky man.’’