Life On The Job

Real People

Deng Thiak Adut: Defence Lawyer and Refugee Advocate

Deng Thiak Adut


I was born in a small fishing village called Malek, in the South Sudan. My father was a fisherman and we had a banana farm. I am one of eight children born to Mr Thiak Adut Garang and Ms Athieu Akau Deng. So the parts of my name are drawn from both my parents.

My given name is Deng which means god of the rain. In those parts of this wide brown land that are short of water my name might be a good omen. I have a nickname: Auoloch, which means swallow. Alas I couldn't fly and as a young boy, about the age of a typical second grader in Sydney, I was conscripted into an army.

South Sudan

As they took me away from my home and family I didn't even understand what freedoms I had lost. I didn't understand how fearful I should have been. I was young. I was ignorant. 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.

Instead, I was taught to sing war songs. In place of the love of life I was taught to love the death of others. I had one freedom – the freedom to die and I'll return to that a little later.

I lost the right to say what I thought. In place of 'free speech', I was an oppressor to those who wanted to express opinions that were different to those who armed me, fed me, told me what to think, where to go and what to do.

And there was something else very special to me that was taken away. I was denied the right to become an initiated member of my tribe. The mark of 'inclusiveness' was denied to me.

I had to wait until I became an Australian citizen to know that I belonged.
(Source: SMH)


In 1985, the Sudanese government began destroying villages eventually leading to the rise of the People's Liberation Army. Two years later, six-year old Deng Thiak Adut was taken away from his family's banana farm in South Sudan and conscripted into the Army. After undergoing military training, several years of army service and witnessing numerous atrocities, Deng was still a boy when he was shot in the back while running through a village.

A further two years later, a chance meeting led to Deng reuniting with his brother who helped smuggle him out of the country by hiding him in a corn sack on the back of a truck. The two brothers befriended an Australian family and eventually arrived as refugees in 1998.

After working at a local service station to learn English, Deng enrolled at TAFE and completed his Advanced Diploma in Accounting before deciding to study law. In 2005 he enrolled in a Bachelor of Laws at Western Sydney University and became the first person in his family to graduate with a law degree.

Deng now works as a lawyer in Blacktown, where he is determined to ensure that other Sudanese refugees have the legal advice and support they need before entering the court system.
(Source: University of Western Sydney)


Did You Know?


1984 Born in Malek, South Sudan

1990 Conscripted as a boy soldier at six years old

1994 Goes to war, is shot in the back

1995 Escapes the army, flees to Kenya

1998 Arrives in Australia as a refugee

2005 Enrols in law degree at UWS

2010 Graduates with Bachelor of Law

2014 Co-founds the AC Law Group in Blacktown with Joseph Correy.

2016 Delivers Australia Day address in Sydney

2016 Studying a Masters of Law at the University of Wollongong
(Source: SMH)

Experiences and Opportunities

Adut, who was conscripted 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 won a scholarship to study law in 2005.

He is a partner in the AC Law Group, a firm which he co-founded, and works seven days a week. He takes on fee-paying criminal trials and family law, and refugee pro bono cases. (Source: SMH)


SMH: 21 January 2016




ABC: News 10 September 2015


YouTube: Deng Thiak Adut Unlimited (URL: )


YouTube: Deng Thiak Adut's Australia Day Speech 2016 (URL: )


YouTube: Deng Thiak Adut ABC interview - Racism and Moving to Australia (URL:



Determination, Optimism and Courage!

MiddleMiddle High SchoolSecondary

Critical & Creative ThinkingAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical & Creative Thinking

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

1. Western Sydney University has developed a video about Deng Thiak Adut - Unlimited [see above] to show how Deng’s resilience shows

  • Determination
  • Optimism, and,
  • Courage

2. This video went viral with over 2,182,145 hits (9/3/2016). What do you think inspires people to view this video? What did you like about it? What do you admire about Deng? Was it a successful video to encourage students to go to University? Why? Why not?

3. Imagine yourself in 10 years' time. Create a story about your determination, optimism and courage you will display as you reach for your dreams.

4. Create a multimodal presentation using Prezi showing

  • Your history - where you were born, your family, your school, your sports and/or clubs you belong to.
  • Your dreams. How do you you intend to carry out your dreams to help contribute to your world?
  • Your ideal job. How will you make sure you will get this job? What steps will you need to take? What challenges will you need to overcome?



Refugee kids adapt to Australia

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle 

CriticalAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and creative thinking
Personal and social capability
Australian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability
Australian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

Intercultural UnderstandingAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Intercultural Understanding

1. Look at the BTN story "Refugee kids adapt to Australia" on ABC's Splash

ABC Splash

2. Complete the activities listed there:

  •  Before viewing: The term 'refugee' is often seen in newspapers and heard on TV. What does it mean? How do you become a refugee? Why do we have refugees in Australia?
  •  As you view: How does the course help the boys challenge their own perceptions? What lesson do the boys learn about police in Australia, and how might law enforcement be different in their home country?
  •  After viewing: Migrants and refugees experience 'push' and 'pull' factors. Push factors are the things that force them to leave their countries, pull factors are the things that attract them to other countries. What important push and pull factors are likely to affect these boys?
  • Next steps: Think carefully about your everyday life. What special knowledge do you need to function efficiently - like how to catch a bus to school? List examples of this type of knowledge that a newly-arrived migrant or refugee would have to learn.  

3. Share your thoughts with a partner. Did you come up with the same examples of knowledge that a newly-arrived migrant or refugee would have to learn? Are there any special things that they would need to know if they came to your community?

Submit an activity



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