Defying great odds, Sudanese refugee and criminal lawyer Deng Adut has been named the 2017 New South Wales Australian of the Year.
At the tender age of six, Deng was taken from his family and forced to fight as a child soldier in Sudan in north-eastern Africa.
He was lucky to escape into Kenya, and arrived in Australia as a refugee in 1998.
Mr Adut now runs a law firm in Blacktown, west of Sydney, where he often represents members of Sydney’s Sudanese community, and is studying for his second Master’s degree.
He said the award was unexpected.
“It means a lot, it means that I have to work extremely hard because I don’t think I deserve it, so I have to work to deserve it,” he said.
“I’ve lost 17 other members of my family when the war broke out in 2013, I could be dead like them, that is what it means.
“I have a lot on my shoulders.”
The NSW win puts him in the running for the Australian of the Year, which is announced on January 25 next year.
He triumphed over adversity, and a field of other celebrated NSW identities:
- Stan Grant – reconciliation champion
- Dr Jordan Nguyen – biomedical engineer
- Turia Pitt – Ironwoman