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Life’s never meant to be smooth sailing

For more than a decade designer, builder, and author, Barry Du Bois, graced Australian television screens as a well-loved presenter but these days, it’s his work with the Leukaemia Foundation that he’s focusing on—and it’s personal.

By Kylie Triggell

  • Autumn 2024
  • Feature
  • Read Time: 7 mins

Despite a colorful career in building development and television entertainment, Barry Du Bois has knocked on death’s door more times than he’d care to imagine. 

It was his determination to fight his original cancer diagnosis that paved the way for him to become one of Australia’s most lovable TV presenters. 

In 2005, at just 46, Barry decided to retire from the building and property development industry and sail the Mediterranean Sea with his wife, Leonie. 

They planned to live on their yacht for half of the year and base themselves in Bondi Beach, Sydney, for the other half. 

Life, however, had other plans. Barry says Leonie ultimately decided to spend three months on the boat at a time and they’d sail to popular tourist destinations.

A new direction

“A good mate of mine, Peter Colquhoun, who’s the architect on [Channel 7’s] Better Homes and Gardens, would then come over and we’d take on the more unique places. 

We’d sail to Libya, Tunisia, Sudan— places like that,” Barry says. 

“While doing this, he came up with a great idea, well I thought it was a reasonable idea but we’re both passionate about architecture. The idea was we’d sail into the cities that have changed the history of the world we live in today and make a TV show about it. 

“I thought, if it made it possible for us to sail around the world, then why not?” 

They created a video that, in 2010, landed in the hands of Network 10 The Renovators TV producer—thanks in part to Peter’s past involvement with the show, but it was Barry that he wanted to work with. Several phone calls later, however, Barry was still not sold on the idea. 

“But then believe it or not, on the same day I was given three months to live, the casting agent rang me again and said, ‘Listen, we’ll do anything to get you on this show’,” Barry says. 

“I said, ‘Well, I’ll tell you what. Ring me up in three months and if I answer the phone, then I’ll do it’.”


Barry had been diagnosed with solitary plasmacytoma—a rare blood cancer of the immune system that attacks healthy bone marrow— and he was preparing for the fight of his life. He says he’d been swimming at the beach when there was a sharp crack in his neck. 

The sound, and the pain that followed, made him realise the injury was more serious than a buildingrelated ache. That crack had been the last of his C1 vertebrae caving in. 

“The first time I went to the hospital, they said, ‘You’ve got three months to live’,” Barry says. 

Extensive surgery, then radiation followed but Barry beat the odds and turned up for work on The Renovators set in 2011. 

In 2012 he joined the cast of lifestyle program The Living Room for the same network. The perfect pairing of Barry alongside host Amanda Keller, vet Chris Brown, and chef Miguel Maestre saw the program become an instant hit with Australian audiences. 

That same year, Leonie gave birth to twins—a son and a daughter. In 2017, however, Barry was told his cancer had developed into myeloma, an incurable type of blood cancer. 

This time he was given five years to live. Despite this prognosis, Barry decided to keep on fighting. 

“I live with a cancer that’s, frankly, incurable. But I also know in the river of life that you have to give yourself the best chance by having the best nutrition, having great support around you, by accepting and offering empathy, and just preparing yourself to fight every day,” Barry says. 

“I’ve had the experience where the whole world saw me get diagnosed with cancer, then I went down to a place that looked pretty dramatic to a lot of people—including myself. 

“But then I was able to come back to be strong and healthy and vibrant again. Every time I go to the doctors, they tell me I'm going to die shortly, and I keep making them get it wrong. So, I'm doing something right.”

New cause

The Living Room finished airing in 2022, and these days, Barry, 63, has shifted his attention to his work as an ambassador with the Leukaemia Foundation. He says it’s vital to get the word out there about how important early detection is when it comes to blood cancer. 

“It's not like I ever got sick. It was thanks to another reason they detected that I had blood cancer, so I could get treated early enough,” Barry says. 

“One of the key things that the Leukaemia Foundation focuses on is early detection. Blood cancer can be a giant mountain or a smaller hill, depending on where you find it, what it is and how you approach it, and how prepared you are to take the steps that will get you over it.” 

Barry says in a lifetime, many people will either say or hear from a loved one the words “I’ve got cancer”, and it would be at this point they’ll wish they could have done more. 

With that in mind, Barry urges people to consider volunteering with the Leukaemia Foundation. 

“Volunteering is amazing. Any volunteer we can have is fantastic,” he says. 

“Something else I’m going to get involved with this year is the World’s Greatest Shave. You can get involved with that; it’s a bit of fun. You can shave, cut, or colour your hair, donate some money, or just talk to friends and make the party a dialogue.” 

Another vital role the Leukaemia Foundation plays, Barry says, supporting people going through emotional, financial, and even physical stressors associated with a diagnosis. 

“There’s 140,000 people living with blood cancer at the moment. You're not alone. You're not the only person going through this. There are tens of thousands of people every day living fantastic, strong, vibrant lives. You can too,” he says. 

“This is why I’m so passionate about the Leukaemia Foundation. Our goal is to have zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035. Plenty of people are going to be diagnosed with blood cancer, but we are trying every day to find a cure.” 

For more information, visit the Leukaemia Foundation

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