Ever wondered what it’s like to spend an evening with the fabulous Australian duo actor Hugh Jackman and his wife actress Deborra-Lee Furness? Here, Jules Allen tells how she became involved with the dynamic duo and the important work spearheaded by Deborra-Lee with Adopt Change, an organisation she founded to improve the process of adoption in Australia.
My gorgeous daughter, Indy and I recently had the pleasure of attending dinner with actor Hugh Jackman and his wife actress and producer Deborra-Lee Furness.
I’m well aware that not many people are lucky enough to boast about such an event but, as a consequence of Deb and Hugh’s warmth, it was more like a catch up with old friends.
Dinner With The Jackmans
In true ‘Jules’ style I made a grand entrance by knocking over the enormous media banner during our photo shoot. As the board crashed to the ground and the room of 100 or so people stared silently in my direction, Deb and Hugh yelled across the room, “Oh Jules, you’re here!” Subtlety has never been my strong point and it appears that that is becoming well known as they didn’t seem to bat an eyelid. I graciously recovered myself and was greeted with hugs and kisses.
As some of you may know, Deb is the founder of an organization called ‘Adopt Change’. The motivation of the organization is to make both international and domestic adoption more accessible within Australia.The dinner was one of the organisation’s many annual fundraising events. It was held in Melbourne and hosted by radio and TV duo Hamish Blake and Andy Lee. For any skeptics out there, those two boys are absolutely hilarious!
In late 2013, I was appointed as an ambassador to Adopt Change and my adopted daughter Indy was appointed the first youth ambassador. An enormous honor for both of us. These positions came about after Indy entered an art competition the organization was running. The criteria was that you had to be under 18 and adopted to enter and your art piece had to reflect, in some way, of your adoption story. When I was leaving for a stint as a contestant on the MasterChef TV series, I gathered together a photo album of all of my children. Because Indy was adopted in her early teens, I had no baby photos of her. As I was about to leave she handed me a drawing she had done of what she believed she looked like as a baby. It was mind blowing and I absolutely cherished it. Needless to say, it was the perfect piece. Indy won the competition sponsored by beauty brand Kiehl’s from L’Oreal Luxe. Her drawing was printed on the top of Kiehl’s moisturizers for several months.
In October 2013, Indy and I spent a week with Deb in Sydney for National Adoption Awareness Week, an annual event she founded. The week was jam-packed with press conferences, events, meetings, media interviews and the like. It was during this week I developed a deep and powerful respect for Deb, not only as an amazing dynamo of a woman, but as an incredibly authentic, motivated and driven inspirer for this cause. She was up at 4am each day, enthusiastic about the day ahead, bounding from one engagement to the next, treating every person who came into her sphere with the same respect as the last. Her warmth and compassion would permeate throughout every room she entered.
Later that year we were invited to morning tea at Kirribilli House in Sydeny to hear Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s announcement regarding a commitment from the Government of $2 million to have the policies regarding adoption re-written. An exciting day for all of us and all those in Australia hoping to adopt.
It was at this event that I first had the pleasure of meeting Hugh. And yes! He is every bit as delightful as they say; and then some. Like Deb, he graciously greeted everyone as if they were an old friend. Furthermore, only those who have not spent time with this beautiful couple would buy in to the rubbish that their marriage is a facade. He is absolutely besotted with her and she with him. It is seriously like they fell in love yesterday. I was standing next to him at one stage while Deb was addressing the large gathering. Without speaking to anyone in particular, he quietly muttered “Isn’t she amazing?” I looked to my left to see him totally absorbed in all that she was doing and saying. I found it incredibly admirable and heart-warming. Naturally, I am now a fervent defender of my new found, perfect friends!
As most of you know, Deb and Hugh adopted their two beautiful children. The process for them was not too challenging as they were living in America. When Deb returned she was asked why it was so difficult to adopt in Australia. She was quite miffed when she realized she had no sufficient response. What I love about Deb is that when she didn’t have the answer to the problem, she went about seeking a solution. Like myself, Deb has travelled to many orphanages in Third World areas and is aware of the millions of children, globally, needing families. Ironically, we are also aware of the multitude of parents within Australia wanting to adopt; for varying and often very personal reasons. The problem is that, within Australia most people can’t adopt.
I’m going to throw something else in to the mix at this point. At present there are over 60,000 children in Australia in long-term Foster Care. That means that the option for them to return to their biological parents is no longer possible. Studies show that most of these kids will be shuffled from one Foster home to the next, averaging at least eight homes in their 18 years in the system. One of the directions of Adopt Change is to make it possible for these children to be put up for adoption once all avenues of restoration with the birth families have been exhausted. Of the 60,000 children in care, less than 100 were adopted last year. With the risk of sounding arrogant, after 31 Foster kids, I know all too well, the importance of these children finding a permanent, loving and stable home.
In a nutshell, the organization is striving to make both International and domestic adoption more accessible for families within Australia. The organization, under Deb’s direction is purely child focussed and is totally committed to ensuring children in need find a sense of belonging in a loving family. The next National Adoption Awareness week is in early November and I look forward to spending another crazy week chasing Deb. I am comforted by the fact that she too, doesn’t take a subtle approach to life so I’m in good company. As for Hugh; well, I’ll do my best to tolerate his humble company!