Luke was born Julian Ross, the son of teachers Graham and Therese Ross. His father was an alcoholic and his mother soon became one in her struggle to cope with life with her husband. One night, Graham beat Therese in a drunken rage and was preparing to do the same to Julian. Therese grabbed a knife and stabbed him to death to save her son. Julian blocked the entire event from his mind and just remembered her as a pathetic alcoholic. He kept running away and spent some time living on the streets of Sydney in the notorious King's Cross area (a.k.a. the Cross), changing his name to Luke Dean (Dean after his movie idol, James Dean).
After Luke's seventh car theft charge in July 1989, Father Moore at Xavier Refuge asked Shirley (whom he already knew from her many Refuge activities) and Frank Gilroy to take Luke in, with Frank to act as Luke's probation officer. During his first episode, Luke was accused of stealing a truck and beating up the driver. In the end, it was discovered that he saved the beaten driver and drove the truck to the hospital. While known by various names in Wandin Valley, he eventually settled on "Luke Ross" (though Frank persisted in calling him Julian). He sent money periodically to his mother but she spent it on booze. She promised to visit many times but always failed to show up. When she finally appeared, having given up the drinking, he rejected her and she turned back to the grog. In a drunken stupor, she mistook him for his father and came at him with a knife. It unblocked his memories of that earlier event and was a turning point in their relationship.
He was very anti-alcohol (because of his childhood) and the love of his life was his car, "the Dream Machine" (the first incarnation of this car was stolen from Luke and stripped of all usable parts -- he replaced it later on with "the Dream Machine Mark II"). His first real girlfriend in Wandin Valley was Miriam Briggs, daughter of local MP Douglas Briggs. She had dreams of becoming a pilot and convinced him to stick with his studies so that he could become an aircraft designer. She moved away and he struggled to get on with his life. He developed a crush on young local farmer Steve Brennan, feelings that she insisted she didn't return. However, when Miriam returned to the Valley to visit, Steve experienced jealousy. Miriam's visit took a tragic turn when she struck a submerged branch while waterskiing, paralyzing her from the neck down. Luke was horrified because he was driving the boat at the time. Miriam was permanently transferred to the spinal unit in Sydney.
Luke and Steve's friendship continued to grow, though she still refused to admit her feelings. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had to undergo surgery in Sydney. He also went to Sydney to study aircraft mechanics. While there, he decided he wanted to be a pilot, not a mechanic, and returned to Wandin Valley to finish his HSC and get proper training. In the meantime, he continued to work as Matt Tyler's veterinary assistant and managed the Lodge, the local teen center. When Matt's wife, Lucy, developed an allergy to dogs, Luke adopted Matt's female dog, Dog. He helped Steve sow the crop of potatoes that was going to pay for her big trip to Greece with Ann and Cris and their relationship seemed to be finally heading toward something serious. Her horribly sudden death in a fall from her horse in July 1991 devastated him. He did meet someone else later on, Darcy Hudson, but he left her to join the Air Force as a navigator in March 1992.
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