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Inspiring International Students: Gary Lee

A former international student from Malaysia, Gary Lee is an exceptional leader who has a natural ability to engage with people from all walks of life. His work with international students spans over 15 years.

Having started as a student leader, then as an Administrative Officer in the RMIT Chancellor’s office before taking on full-time roles as an international student advisor, then, as an education abroad advisor managing exchange & study abroad students from Europe. Seven years ago, he started working at Melbourne City Council, as the first designated International Student role across Australia within Councils.

In January 2016, Gary was recognised as the ‘New Australian of the Year 2016’ by the Australia Day Council. “It is exceptional to see the former international students who have stayed on to become an Australian citizen to contribute so much to our society,” said Wesa Chau, Chair of the New Australian of the Year judging panel.

View another inspiring international student profile:

Ronny Chieng

Let’s get a glimpse of what Gary does and why he’s a deserving recipient of the award.

‘Dare2Bdifferent Gary’ (as he is referred to by his close friends) is no doubt one of the most hardworking people in the Australian international education sector. These days, one could spot him serving meals at The Salvation Army 614 – Couch, to helping out with a BBQ at the housing estates, taking new students to the footy, directing a fashion runway, running high profile events across the city to giving keynote addresses at events. All these, on a voluntary basis.

In a series of panels for National Youth Week this year, Gary confessed to having started volunteering in Melbourne three days after he landed in the country. “I have been volunteering my entire life, and it still gives me such fulfilment”, he says, quoting his time volunteering at the Royal Children’s Hospital as one of the most memorable. “It taught me early on how significant it is to connect to something greater than myself,” he admits.

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Gary is an advocate for volunteering, and he leads by example. Never to shy away from hard work, his contributions extends far and beyond just international students. Last year, from a timely meeting with Fatima Baraka, Gary became involved with the Moroccan Children’s Appeal; a Melbourne-based not-for-profit charity dedicated to helping underprivileged children with severe medical conditions. Championed by Fatima alongside a team of wonderful volunteers, Gary felt right at home working with people committed to make a difference in the lives of others.

Diverse in all facets of his life, Gary thrives in constantly exploring new pursuits including his love for food. He has his own food diary on Twitter @garyleecious and is also a great supporter of Joining The Dots’ ‘Welcome Dinner Project’ and is eager to get as many people to join in the community shared dinner project. ‘Food has the natural ability of getting people together’ he says.

Welcome Dinner Project by Joining the Dots

Gary has a golden aura about him, a quality gleaming by a dedication to self-improvement, a savvy series of projects that he supports and the not inconsiderable fact that he works really hard.

When asked about whether he has ever thought of slowing down, he quips “Well, I am never satisfied. I always need a new challenge. There is so much to do.”

Albeit being incredibly busy, Gary always has time for the things he loves including the arts, food, and travel. “One thing I’ve learned is that you do need to take time out, enjoy life and then start again.”

Gary is also an Ambassador for Bully Zero Australia Foundation, Melbourne Victory, the AFL and Welcome to Australia. You can follow his work on Twitter @garyleecious.


This article was supplied by 2010 Young Victorian of the Year, Wesa Chau.