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Art B&T’s Changing the Ratio conference on 28 May 2018, our co-founder, criminal lawyer Deng Adut called for unity, telling the audience: “Make Australia your religion, don’t divide Australia”.

Deng’s story is well known. He is a child soldier and refugee turned criminal lawyer and NSW Australian of the year. He was conscripted to fight in Ethiopia at only six years of age, and by his thirtieth birthday opened this law firm, Australian Criminal Law Group.

Deng spoke about his love for Australia and the openness of its citizens. He explained to the audience that Sudan was not an inclusive society and that it was divided by religion.

If I [wanted to] qualify for a passport, I [had to] have Islam as my religion.

I didn’t have rights to question anybody. I was sent there to die for somebody else cause,” he told the audience.

Deng said that Australia was a society that allowed him the overcome the longest of odds, but inequality still existed.

Somebody has to do something to change that. And if you can’t stand up for it, then who will?”

I was never given opportunity to choose for myself. To think about me. To know whether I’m a human or I’m not.

But you gave me opportunity. You made me the NSW Australian of the year. I was given that opportunity. So I give it back. I owe that to this society,” he said.

Deng closed his speech by referring to his late brother, John Mac, as someone he wished had more opportunity. John smuggled Deng out of Africa and got him to safety. But after getting an education and paying university fees, John Mac couldn’t “get a job because he was like me,” Deng said.

And because he couldn’t find any opportunities in Australia. He eventually returned to South Sudan to do aid work and was killed there, leaving six children behind.

Deng has started a foundation for his brother, giving out scholarships to study for refugees and migrants.

More information about the John Mac Foundation can be found on its website here.

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