Former Sudanese child soldier Deng Adut has been nominated for the coveted Australian of Year Award, which celebrates selfless, brave, and inspirational individuals.
Named after the god of rain, 33-year-old Adut, who migrated to Australia as a child refugee, now works as a successful lawyer in Sydney, helping refugees find asylum in Australia.
“Deng represents the very best of what makes our country great and has channeled his success in to helping hundreds of people in the state’s Sudanese community navigate their way through the Australian legal system,” Prime Minister of New South Wales Mike Baird said.
Like thousands of other South Sudanese children, Adut’s life can only be likened to a Hollywood movie, with a number of life-threatening situations.
He was kidnapped and forced to join one of the warring forces in South Sudan at 6 years old, shot in the back, and then smuggled to freedom while hidden in a corn sack on the back of a lorry.
He arrived in Australia as an illiterate child refugee with the help of his half-brother John who befriended an Australian couple and asked them to take them in as asylum seekers.
As an unschooled African refugee in Australia, Adut had to earn a living by doing odd jobs, such as making concrete, fitting doors and windows, and putting in shifts at a meat factory.
He later got an opportunity to attend college, where he completed an advanced diploma in accounting and later graduated with a law degree from Western Sydney University.
“I had my first AK47 when I was 9, and it was a beautiful piece of equipment at the time for a child. It was just like a toy. I was a child soldier, and I was expected to kill or be killed,” Adut recalled.
It is a great honor for someone like Adut to be nominated for the coveted award: indigenous broadcaster and reconciliation champion Stan Grant, burn survivor and ironwoman Turia Pitt, and biomedical engineer Jordan Nguyen are some of the other prominent nominees competing for the award.
The award will be presented to the winner on Australia Day, in late January, when the country will be celebrating individuals whose actions have had a positive impact on society.