The authors of two of the year’s most powerful memoirs discuss their art. Deng Adut’s Songs of a War Boy tells his story of being a former child soldier and refugee, overcoming deadly adversity, and becoming a lawyer for the disenfranchised. Graeme Innes’s Finding a Way is about being blind from birth and overcoming obstacles to eventually become the Human Rights Commissioner. Deng and Graeme talk to Madeline Gleeson about their memoirs, and discuss the art of writing perseverance and the legacy of their stories.
Graeme Innes (Australian)
Graeme Innes AM is a lawyer, author, and company director. His autobiography Finding a Way achieved popular acclaim in 2016. He has been a human rights practitioner for more than thirty years, and is a conference presenter and facilitator. Graeme was a commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission for almost nine years, responsible for issues relating to disability, race and human rights. Graeme chairs the Attitude Australia Foundation, a start-up using media to change attitudes towards Australians with disabilities. He is a director of the NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority, Life Without Barriers, and PWC's diversity board. He was awarded Honorary Doctorates by the University of Canberra in 2014 and RMIT University in 2016 in recognition of his work as a human rights activist.
Deng Adut (Australian)
Deng Adut is a writer and lawyer and the NSW Australian of the Year for 2017. A former child soldier in Sudan, he came to Australia as a refugee aged 14. Having never been to school, he taught himself to read, write and speak English, and went on to win a scholarship to study law in 2005. He now has his own law practice with offices in Sydney, Parramatta, Blacktown and Redfern, and he spends much of his free time working with disenfranchised youth and refugees.
Deng gave the 2016 Australia Day Address, and was painted for the 2016 Archibald Prize by Nick Stathopoulos (whose portrait of Deng won the People’s Choice award). Deng’s memoir Songs of a War Boy was written with Ben Mckelvey.
Madeline Gleeson (Australian)
Madeline Gleeson is a lawyer and Senior Research Associate at the Andrew and Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW. She specialises in international human rights and refugee law, with a focus on regional refugee protection, the law of state responsibility, and offshore processing.
Madeline has extensive experience working with forcibly displaced people around the world, including work on statelessness, refugees, human trafficking, labour migration and land grabbing with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Cambodia, and with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva. Madeline’s recent book, Offshore: Behind the Wire on Manus and Nauru, won the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction, and has been nominated for a range of other prestigious prizes.