Reach­ing for the star

Jules Lund turned around his trou­bled teenage life through Reach pro­grams, writes Colin Vick­ery

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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.’’

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