ABCNEWS 08 FEB 2020
The first South Sudan-born Victorian to receive a Queen’s Scout Award hopes that by providing a positive example he can help change negative perceptions of his community.
Deng Shan, 18, was one of 91 Scouts to receive the peak award for Scouts aged 15 to 18 years during a ceremony at Government House today.
“It really makes me happy because being the first South Sudanese is something big and it’s something positive from our community,” Deng said.
Negative media reports had unfairly created a social stigma around South Sudanese people, he said.
“It’s just a small handful that made us all look bad,” he said.
Deng came to Australia in 2006 with his family just before he turned five. He has only vague memories of South Sudan, which was barely emerging from a bloody civil war at the time.
“Australia is very different, well-maintained, providing way more opportunities to succeed and have a happier and healthier life,” he said. “But don’t get me wrong. Sudan is a beautiful country — we just need the right leaders.”
He has spent the last two years with the Catholic Regional College, Sydenham, Venturer Scout Unit pursuing a self-directed program, ranging from canoeing to working with disabled kids, attending camps and earning badges.
Being a Scout had opened up a range of experiences and activities that would not have been available to him otherwise, he said.
“I really appreciate all the effort that my school and the committee has put in to get me through this,” he said.
Having finished school, he is now enrolled with RMIT to study property and construction management with the aim of working in real estate.
He has also now taken under his wing a couple of other younger Sudanese kids who have joined the Scouts.
“I’m just trying to motivate them to keep doing it and keep showing everyone we’re not as bad as they say we are,” he said.
“The more positive things we do, the more positive light will shine on us and shut away the negative talk that has been about lately.
“I really believe if we can provide positive examples, it will be good for our community.”
Scouts Victoria chief commissioner Rod Byrnes said he was extremely proud of all those who completed their Queen’s Scout Award.
“It’s at least two years of self-discipline and hard work, learning and growing,” Mr Byrnes said.
“And as many of our Venturer Scouts finish their Queen’s Scout during years 11 and 12, it’s like doing a second VCE.”
Governor Linda Dessau said she was “very proud” of all those who received awards at today’s ceremony.
“These are young people who have shown extraordinary dedication,” she said. “Sometimes people accuse this generation of not having a long concentration span but these kids have worked very hard over many, many hours and years for this very high achievement.”
She said it was important for other children in the community to have positive older role models.
“I think it’s wonderful that the guiding and scouting movements have been so intent in making sure that they have the diversity of our whole state,” she said.
“I don’t want too much responsibility on [Deng’s] young shoulders but what I love about him is he’s such a natural ambassador because he’s so enthusiastic about it.”