By Veronica Perez
Community advocate and Seddon resident, Gary Lee, was recently awarded an Order of Australia medal. Having championed international students for close to 20 years, Gary lives and breathes for the community he serves.
“I am extremely humbled, and very, very grateful. I do what I do because it’s part of who I am, and because I can, so to be recognised this way is absolutely heart-warming.”
Coming to Australia from Malaysia to study a Bachelor of Business (Marketing) at RMIT University, Gary quickly became actively involved in the international education community, and has dedicated his entire adult life to giving back.
Having earned a reputation as an affable and versatile collaborator, Gary is driven by a relentless quest to seek new, inspiring and innovative ways to support, engage and empower international students. Through partnerships and collaborations, he has championed numerous award-winning projects and programs including the $2m ‘Our Shout’ food voucher program, (pandemic support for international students), Lord Mayor’s Student Welcome events, the ‘Act of Translation’ theatre project, the EDGE International Student Leaders’ Program and the Essendon Football Club GLoBALL Program.
“We are on borrowed time and I plan to leave the world a better place than how I found it. Volunteering and giving back have been part of my life since a little child.”
Over a decade ago, he also founded PoisE’n and PoisE’n Bollypop dance crews to create platforms to engage international students with the local community through dance. These days he has extended his reach to fashion and other forms of performing arts. He has engaged hundreds of people through this, constantly encouraging communities to participate, volunteer and make a difference, for themselves and everyone else. He is also a big supporter of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and a champion of their annual fundraising campaign and the ASRC Foodbank.
Gary’s dedication to the welfare of international students, alongside his hard work developing events and programs for the student community, has made a huge impact on the lives of many.
“I feel blessed that I get to work and volunteer for things that matter to me. It’s a gift.”
Naturally, instead of celebrating, Gary talks about his aspirations on how he can use recognition to give back to communities. He is currently a member of The Huddle Advisory Committee and Ambassador for Bully Zero Australia Foundation, the AFL Multicultural Community Program, Melbourne Victory; Welcome to Australia and is an alumni member of the Asialink Leaders Program.
“International students are a huge part of what makes Melbourne such a great place. They contribute to Melbourne’s exciting, vibrant and inclusive culture – they bring the vibes as residents, employees, business owners, volunteers and friends. They are truly part of the Melbourne I love.”