Sudanese-born solicitor Deng Adut is a hard man to shock. After all, he was recruited as a child soldier in Sudan when he was just six, spent years being trained in famine-stricken Ethiopia in the late 1980s, has lost five of his eight siblings, and was smuggled out of an African army training camp by hiding in a sack in a truck for five hours. When he arrived in Australia in 1998 at age 14, after being sponsored by an Australian aid worker who spotted him and his brother, he could speak no English, was suffering emotional trauma, and had suffered from whooping cough, measles, cholera and chicken pox. This horrific childhood can make the petty crimes he deals with in courts such as Burwood Local Court a little matter-of-fact at times. The more serious crimes he defends as a criminal lawyer – think drugs, fraud, and care and protection cases – are his bread and butter. Adut, 31, dropped out of high school, started working at a service station and completed an accounting course at TAFE. He found he enjoyed tax law and went on to study law at the University of Western Sydney. In March, he started a small law firm in Blacktown with Joseph Correy, a solicitor he met when they were defending co-accused in a drug case. His dream is to return to Africa and prosecute those who recruit child soldiers. His mother, 71, lives in South Sudan and he hopes to see her again.
“A lot of people don’t understand the court system. They can clog the courts and waste time. A lot of people have helped me in my life and it makes me feel good to help. You can’t put a price on that.
When I started the firm AC Law Group with my partner, Joseph, I told him I couldn’t guarantee everyone would pay. I told him, “The one who doesn’t pay you can be the one you never forget. That memory can last forever”. It’s true. As a lawyer, you feel like you have a duty to help people.