Johnson Maker-Adeng takes a hard road to happiness

REMARKABLE: Johnson Maker-Adeng features on tonight’s Australian Story.
REMARKABLE: Johnson Maker-Adeng features on tonight’s Australian Story. Patrick Gorbunovs

ONE OF the first Sudanese refugees to settle in Lismore will feature on tonight's Australian Story on ABC-TV.

Johnson Maker-Adeng arrived in Lismore with his mother and six siblings in 2003 after fleeing violence in the Sudan in the mid 1990s. They made their way to Ethiopia and eventually to a refugee camp in northern Kenya.

The family arrived in Lismore with the assistance of Sanctuary Northern Rivers, a non-profit organisation that assists settlement of refugees.

President Dr Michael Douglas remembers Johnson as "a bright young man, full of ambition" when he arrived here at the age of 15 or 16.

Dr Douglas said Johnson and his family arrived within a fortnight of the first Sudanese refugee family to settle in Lismore and said they were "exciting times".

"As a family they were ambitious to settle and in those early days there was a sense of relief to be out of a situation of insecurity and on a journey of opportunity," he said.

"Certainly for Johnson there was a sense that the door was open and he was going to make the most of every opportunity.

"As a community we had to work out what it means to host people from traumatic backgrounds who may have spent 8-10 years in a refugee camp. It was a challenge for the community, but they responded well and I think we have all grown with their presence here."

Johnson went to St John's College, Woodlawn, where he became a house captain. He studied science in Brisbane hoping to move into medicine, but has changed to business studies. He has also set up a charity,, which aims to improve the education and health of people in southern Sudan.

"He really wants to give back to this community (in Australia) and also to his home village. He really is one dynamic young man."

Topics:  australian story

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