WAR, famine and genocide are things we only see on the six o’clock news but for Deng Adut these things shaped him into the man he is today and have helped in his journey to become the NSW Australian of the Year.
Growing up in Sudan, Deng Adut was stolen away from his family by the local militia and forced to take up arms as a child soldier. With the help of the UN he escaped and was fostered into the Blacktown household of Bob and Christine Harrison.
After teaching himself English, and some rough Australian colloquialisms, Deng studied law at Western Sydney University. His story was broadcast into the homes of millions of Australians after the university used it in a memorable and emotive advertising campaign, watched by 2.5 million people online.
Upon graduating Deng Adut could have worked anywhere with his expertise in human rights law, but he decided to take up an offer of a law firm based in western Sydney, his adopted community.
Last week, Deng Adut received national recognition after he was named the NSW Australian of the Year by the Premier at a special function in Sydney.
During the ceremony, Premier Mike Baird said Deng Adut “represents the very best of what makes our country great, and has channelled his success into helping hundreds of people in the state’s Sudanese community navigate their way through the Australian legal system”.
In accepting the award Deng Adut said he now feels accepted into the country and he understand what it is like to be an Australian.
“I am an Australian for the rest of my life,” he said. “I had to wait until I was an Australian citizen to know that I belonged.”
The other finalists for the award were Indigenous journalist Stan Grant, Turia Pitt, and refugee and lawyer and Dr Jordan Nguuyen.
Recently Deng Adut published an acclaimed book on his life story called, Songs of a War Boy.