Today is Australia Day, which is a wonderful opportunity for a proud Australian like myself to reflect on what it means to be living in such a great country.
As a passionate advocate for refugees and asylum seekers, I have the privilege of helping people from every corner of the world find meaningful work and have had many clients from South Sudan, so when my wife showed me the story of Deng Thiak Adut, I knew that it was a wonderful example of a great Australian to share with you today.
Deng was born in the nation of South Sudan and at the age of 6, he was abducted from his family’s farm to fight for the People’s Liberation Army. He fought with them as a child soldier for many years, saw atrocities that no child should ever see and eventually was injured in combat after being shot in the back at the age of 12.
In his own words, “I lost the freedom to read and write. I lost the freedom to sing children’s songs. I lost the right to be innocent. I lost the right to be a child.”
By chance, he met his brother and was fortunate enough to be smuggled out of the country, eventually making it to Australia.
At the age of 15, he taught himself to read and write English whilst working in a service station, before he eventually completed his Bachelor and Masters Degrees in Law. Deng now works as a criminal lawyer, where he is able to make a significant contribution to the local community by ensuring that they have access to sound legal advice.
He hasn’t allowed his past to make him bitter, but has developed a generous, positive mindset that is an encouragement to people from all walks of life.
And now, this proud, patriotic Australian citizen stands as an inspiration to all Australians and to people around the world.
He reminds us that a terrible upbringing can still be turned into a wonderful life of contribution.
He reminds us that through hard work and focus, dreams can come true.
And sadly, he reminds us that in the refugee camps around the world, there are potential lawyers, doctors, teachers, police officers, social workers, builders and entrepreneurs just waiting for an opportunity to utilise their capabilities to make the world a better place.
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