Local Hero : Clement Deng
AT JUST NINE years of age, Clement Deng became one of the six million southern Sudanese victimised by the brutal civil war that raged from 1984 to 2005.
Clement’s father was a local chief, accused by the militia of providing the rebel army with food. As a result, the militia took Clement to interrogated him about his father, beating him with a bicycle chain and branding the nine year old with hot metal.
Unable to find his parents after this horrific incident, Clement joined thousands of other lost boys in a long trek seeking safety. His journey, often with no food or water, would take him to refugee camps in Ethiopia, Kenya and back to Sudan. It wasn’t until two decades later, when he arrived in Australia, that he had the first opportunity to make contact with his family in Sudan.
Since arriving in Australia has been to further his education so he can empower his people in South Sudan to build a better life and a just society. Clement has set up a Foundation with the objective to build a school for his community where 90% of the population is illiterate.
“When energy is taken away from internal conflict and invested in the development of the country, South Sudan will be able to move forward without the difficulties we are facing now,” Clement says.
For the present, Clement works closely with Victoria Police to help build an understanding between them and the traumatised Sudanese community, most of whom have had negative experiences with local police and other authorities in Sudan.
“It would be easy for me simply to settle down comfortably and enjoy life, but I feel the responsibility to help others who have experienced what I experienced. I owe it to those who perished in the conflict.”