33-year-old South Sudanese child soldier-turned-Blacktown lawyer Deng Adut moved hearts in 2015 when a short video about his life went viral. The clip, which has attracted more than 2.5 million views to date, was produced by Adut’s alma mater, Western Sydney University. Deng, who was conscripted into the Sudan People’s Liberation Army at six years old, had never been to school. He came to Australia as a refugee aged 14, taught himself to read, write and speak English, and went on to win a scholarship to study law in 2005.
He now has his own law practice with offices in Sydney, Parramatta, Blacktown and Redfern, and he spends much of his free time working with disenfranchised youth and refugees. Deng gave the 2016 Australia Day address, was painted for the 2016 Archibald Prize by Nick Stathopoulos and won the People’s Choice award, and Deng was recently named NSW Australian of the Year for 2017. Deng’s book Songs of a War Boy written with Ben Mckelvey was published in November 2016. Between his legal work and running the charity he established in 2016, the John Mac Foundation, Deng is somehow finding the time to appear at Borrowed Voice: Freedom of Expression vs Cultural Appropriation.