Deng Adut has seen the best and worst health care systems on the planet, and has a simple message for all Australians, particularly regional Australians.
Mr Adut was in Tamworth on Thursday addressing the Rural Health and Research Congress, as well as sharing his inspirational.
He is a former South Sudanese child soldier who was snatched from his mother at age five, before being smuggled out of the country by a relative, and then granted refugee status by the UN before landing in Australia at age 14.
Despite being illiterate when he arrived in 1988, Mr Adut is now a defence lawyer and outspoken refugee and human rights advocate. He was named NSW Australian of the Year for 2017.
A key topic of the three day conference was closing the city-country health divide.
“In Africa my uncle was a vet, but he was operating on humans,” Mr Adut said.
“In Australia we take some of the services for granted, and we shouldn’t. I think we know how lucky we are but, we are ignorant of it, and that is a bad thing.”
“If you see a doctor in Australia, a real doctor, and you see my uncle – you will know the difference.”
While Mr Adut recognises that health services in Australia are not as good as they could be, once again his message was clear.
“We forgot that we can look after ourselves, we are the government, we are the people – help yourself. If you want something done than start doing it and people will follow – don’t wait for the government or someone else to do it,” he said.
“I call Australia a heaven, because we can succeed in a lot of ways by supporting each other – the first step is to trust and love one another.”
The former child soldier also believes the health divide is upside down, saying Australians “need to re-appreciate who we are.”
“Australia is a farming country, that is how it started. Our farmers were important but now they are less important and that is a wrong thing.
“People in the country should be more healthy than us in the city – all the fresh food that we eat comes from the country and we eat junk in the city.
“We enjoy the dish without knowing the farmer or the producer, we need to get back to our roots and help our community.
Mr Adut has vowed to come back to Tamworth in the near future to tackle a different health problem.
“I will come to local high schools because drugs is a major issue with kids.
“When technology is fast drugs are fast, and these two things are killing the new generation and they can’t protect themselves.”
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