Everyone who met Deguefe Odysseas Hailu, who passed away after a short period of illness on May 22, remembers him as a quietly spoken and gentle person.
But he was also passionately committed to the struggle for democracy and social justice, a longstanding member of the Socialist Alliance and a writer of several articles on Ethiopian politics for Green Left Weekly.
Degeufe was born in Ethiopia on April 5, 1955, the eldest of four siblings. From a young age he was an avid reader and he became inspired by US Black rights activist Malcolm X and Belay Zeleke, a leader of the Ethiopian resistance to Italian colonial occupation.
Degeufe won a scholarship to a university in Greece where he trained as a dentist. In 1985, he migrated to Australia as it was not safe for him to return to war-torn Ethiopia.
However, he could not afford to pay for the expensive re-training that would allow him to practice dentistry in Australia. Instead he worked as a translator for Centrelink, where he was well-respected and liked by fellow workers and clients.
Apart from joining the Socialist Alliance, Degeufe was a co-founder of the Ethiopian Community Association of NSW and a former vice-president of the Horn of Africa Relief and Development Agency which helped many refugees and migrants.
About 200 people attended his funeral, reflecting Degeufe’s warm personality and life of commitment to justice and the welfare of others.