Deng Adut is more deserving of NSW Australian of the Year than anyone saying otherwise.

This week, Deng Adut was named NSW Australian of the Year.

Receiving the top honour from Premier Mike Baird, Mr Adut shed tears, explaining it was such a surprise for someone who had “never dreamed of anything, even being a fisherman”.

And yet here he is, a criminal lawyer who runs a law group he established to support members of Blacktown’s Sudanese community, while simultaneously studying for his second master’s degree.

What makes Mr Adut’s achievements remarkable is what he overcame to get here. Forced to fight as a child soldier at the age of six in Sudan, Mr Adut was illiterate when he was smuggled into Australia.

deng adut deserving australian of the year award
“You are not Australian because you are born in Australia. You are Australian because Australia is born in you”. Image via YouTube.

Mr Adut’s story should be inspiring, especially to those of us who grew up safe and privileged here in Australia and yet struggle to find a meaning in our day-to-day lives. But if you read the comments on social media there are plenty of people in Australia who think he is undeserving.

Mr Adut’s words upon accepting the award - “You are not Australian because you are born in Australia. You are Australian because Australia is born in you” - struck a chord with many.

Yet there are voices in the crowd crying that his appointment is “meeting quotas”, a “political statement”, or that he simply isn’t Australian because he wasn’t born here.

I beg to differ. I was born here so I am an Australian. Australia is what it is because the people made it that way”, user Johnny says.

Lukas writes “I'm confused, what exactly has he done for Australia??? It seems like Australia has done a lot for him”.

Meanwhile, others were quick to point out Deng Adut is the embodiment of what a refugee or an Australian citizen who was not born here should be.

It’s a lovely thought, but I question why immigrants should be held to a much higher standard than those who were born here. Why should your place of birth, which is just blind luck, dictate how hard you must work to be deserving of a place in society?

The Australia I love isn’t a crisp, white, uniform fitted sheet. It is a beautiful, ever-evolving patchwork quilt made from fabrics of all colours, patterns, shapes, sizes, and rich with history and culture.

Congratulations Mr Adut.

Deng Adut is the co-founder of leading Sydney criminal law firm AC Law Group.

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