My Journey So Far: From War Zone to Promised Land
We’ve all heard of the terrible civil wars in Sudan, of the brutal killings, of the lives destroyed. But what of those who escaped and started a new life in a country where there were no killings, only opportunities? All would be well for them, wouldn’t it? They are the lucky ones — or so we hope.
Akok Adut came to Australia from Sudan as a child of 11. He arrived legally on a United Nations humanitarian visa, on a direct flight from Nairobi to Brisbane with his big sister and her children. After a lifetime of living in a war zone, they saw Australia as ‘the promised land’, a land of peace and opportunity. But children who witness brutality at a tender age, who are separated too young from their parents, who are uprooted and planted in an alien culture don’t always turn into well-adjusted adults. Many go on suffering and playing out their suffering publicly in self-destructive ways. Akok’s sister did her best by her little brother, but she was not equipped to handle the complex needs of a traumatised adolescent boy, and Akok quickly headed down a path of drug abuse and petty crime: drugs to numb the pain, crime to pay for the drugs.
Today, at 27, after spending his youth in and out of jail, Akok is incarcerated in a detention centre in Western Australia. His visa has been taken from him and he faces the real possibility of deportation back to a country he barely remembers, perhaps permanently separated from his two small sons. Ironically, the time in detention has allowed him to sober up, take stock and reconsider his choices. It has allowed him to focus less on the wrongs done to him and more on how he can use his experiences to help others. He wants to be a better brother, a better son, a better father, a better member of the community — but it may be too late for him.
This story gives insights into the ongoing suffering of refugees even when they are out of danger and living in a land of opportunity. It shows how a boy who has seen too much too early can fail to see those opportunities, and how that same boy can pull himself up and, with the support of others, begin again.