From the March 2016 issue of The Rotarian
Actor Joel Jackson grew up amid the red dirt and 100-degree-plus temperatures of sparsely populated Western Australia, a talented kid in a harsh land. Head of his class at school, soccer star, promising musician – it was all nice, but at age 17, he felt no particular pull in any direction. Until Rotary came along.
A conversation with a Rotarian during a break in a performance at a birthday party launched him to Brazil through Rotary Youth Exchange, where he stayed in the southern city of Londrina hosted by Rotary District 4710 (Brazil, part of Parana) and sponsored by District 9455 (Australia, part of Western Australia). Soon after Jackson got home, his mother suggested he audition for Australia’s top acting school, though he had never been on the stage. “I went, ‘I’ve just got to do what I did in Brazil – jump in and trust that I’ll be able to handle myself,’” he says.
Now 24, Jackson has appeared in two acclaimed television miniseries, Deadline Gallipoli and Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door. For the latter, he learned to tap-dance in order to star as entertainer Peter Allen, who – like himself – started out as a rural Australian who found fame. “It was incredible to be in the leading-man role, where you had to be counted on,” Jackson says. “I learned that responsibility from Rotary. During my year in Brazil, I was a representative of Australia, of my family, and of Rotary. Doing something bigger than yourself, it humbles you.” So, he says, does his work with the Australian cancer charity Redkite and Sydney Children’s Hospital.