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Gary Yia Lee (Ph D)

A Hmong Anthropologist



About Gary


Gary was born in Ban Houei Kouang, Muong Mok, Xieng Khouang, Laos, in 1949.

Gary received his early education in Xieng Khouang city where his father was serving in the Lao military and later in the provincial police force from 1955 to 1960. After the Lao civil war erupted in 1961, his family became displaced and joined other Hmong refugees in Vientiane where he resumed high school studies at the Lycee de Vientiane before going to Australia in 1965 to pursue further education under the Colombo Plan, sponsored by the Australian Government. He has lived in Australia with his wife and four children since 1975, and is now an Australian Citizen. He is fluent in English, Lao, Hmong, Thai and French.

Gary received his Ph.D. in social anthropology/community development, from the University of Sydney, Australia, in 1981. He also has a Master by research (1975) and a Bachelor degree in Social Work (1972) from University of New South Wales, Australia.  He received the Eagle Award for life-time contribution to Hmong studies from Concordia University, USA, in 2006.

He currently works as a bilingual welfare service coordinator with the Cabramatta Community Centre, Sydney, Australia. He was the first scholar-in-residence at the Center for Hmong Studies, Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, from 2006 to 2007. In this role, he developed and taught five courses on Hmong culture, history, society, religion and literature.  Previous to this, he was a visiting fellow in anthropology to the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia in 2001-2002. From 1987 to 2000, he worked with the Ethnic Affairs Commission of New South Wales, Australia, dealing with migrant and refugee communities from Asia, the Indian sub-continent, Europe and the South Pacific.  Before this, he was teaching social work at the University of New South Wales (1974-75), and social anthropology at Macquarie University, Sydney (1986-87). He had also worked with Indochinese young refugees and children on both paid and voluntary basis since their settlement in Australia in 1975.

Gary has been as a member of the management committees of many organisations, including: the Indo-China Refugee Association (NSW); the Multicultural Access Advisory Committee of Fairfield City Council, Sydney; the Management Committee of Service for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors; the Ethnic Communities Council of New South Wales; the Chinese Studies Group of the University of Sydney; the Asian-Australian Resource Centre; the Mt. Druitt Ethnic Communities Agency; the Bonnyrigg Youth Centre; the Public Service Association of NSW; the Research Institute for Asia and the Pacific, University of Sydney; the Independent Teachers Association; the South East Asian Community Assistance Centre (now Cabramatta Community Centre); the Refugee and Social Welfare Subcommittees, Ethnic Communities Council of NSW; the Francis Street Centre (Refugee Youth Refuge) of the Wesley Central Mission in Sydney; the Centre for Asian Studies, Sydney University; the Australia-China Friendship Society; Austcare (Australia Care for Refugees); the Australian Council for Overseas Aid; the Australian Council of Social Service; and the New South Wales Council of Social Service. He was the Founding President of the Lao Students Association in Australia (1971), and a foundation member of the Hmong Australia Society (1978).

The Hmong is Gary’s major research area, but he has also carried out research on community development and the Ethnic Affairs Commission of NSW (1991), Pacific Islander Migrants in New South Wales (1990), Indochinese youth in Sydney (1981), highland economies of Southwest China (1980), evaluation of UN crop replacement projects among highland opium growers in Northern Thailand (1977-78), and on war refugees generated by the "secret war" in Laos (1974).

He is a current member of the editorial board of the Journal of Lao Studies of the Center for Lao Studies, San Francisco, USA, having served as editor of the Lao Studies Review for the Lao Studies Society, Sydney, Australia, from 1991 to 1996.  For many years, he was a referee for the Journal of Asian and Pacific Migration (Quezon City, Philippines) and the International Review of Migration (New York, USA).  Gary has assisted in the convening of conferences on Indochinese and Hmong refugees, and has been invited to be speaker at many national and international conferences and forums.

Among his publications (with most reproduced in this web site) are:

  • “Diaspora and the Predicament of Origins”, Hmong Studies Journal, Vol. 8, 2007

  • “The Hunting Trip” (creative non-fiction story), Paj Ntaub Voice, 12(1), 2007.

  • “Working for the CIA” (creative non-fiction)Paj Ntaub Voice, 12(1), 2007.

  • Hmong Post-war Identity Production: Heritage Maintenance and Cultural Reinterpretation”, in Stanley-Price, N, ed. Cultural Heritage and Postwar Recovery, (Rome: ICCROM, 2007).

  • “The Hmong Rebellion in Laos: Victims or Terrorists?”, in Tan. A. ed. Handbook of Terrorism and Insurgency in Southeast Asia  (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar,  2007).

  • “The Lost Beloved” and “Time is Silent” (poems),  Unplug/Writer’s Block, June/July 2007, online Hmong subculture magazine accessible at

  • “Dreaming Across the Oceans: Media, Globalisation and Cultural Reinvention in the Hmong Diaspora”, Hmong Studies Journal, Vol. 7, 2006.

  • “The Shaping of Traditions”, Hmong Studies Journal, Vol. 6, 2005

  • “White Lies and Silence” (short story), Paj Ntaub Voice,  2005.

  • Dust of Life; A True Ban Vinai Love Story (novel)  (St. Paul, MN:  Hmongland Publications, 2004).

  • The Hmong of Australia: Culture and Diaspora, editor with N. Tapp  (Canberra: Pendanus Books, 2004).

  • “Refugee Settlement and Culture: the Present Situation of the Hmong in Australia”, in N. Tapp and G. Lee above.

  • The Miao-Hmong of Asia, editor with J. Michaud, C. Culas and N. Tapp (Chiangmai: Silkworm Books, 2004).

  • “Transnational Adaptation: Overview of the Hmong of Laos”, in Michaud et al. above.

  • "The Hmong" J. Jupp ed. Encyclopedia of the Australian People, 2nd edition, (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

  • "Indochinese Refugee Families in Australia: A Multicultural Perspective" Families and Cultural Diversity, NSW Ethnic Affairs Commission, 1997.

  • "Cultural Identity in Post-modern Society: Reflections on What is a Hmong" J. Hmong Studies, 1 (1), 1996.

  • "Multiculturalism in Australia: an Asian Perspective"  with Charles Khoo, HREOC State of the Nation Report, Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1994.

  • "The Articulation of Social Relationships" Lao Studies Review, 1993/94, Vol 2.

  • "THE HMONG" With R G Cooper, N Tapp and G S Kohl (Bangkok: Artasia Press, 1991).

  • "Pahawh Hmong Writing" (Book review), Southeast Asian Refugee Study Newsletter, University of Minnesota, Spring 1991.

  • "The Ethnic Affairs Commission of New South Wales and Pacific Islanders" (Sydney: Ethnic Affairs Commission, 1990).

  • "Working out of Anthropology" Sydney University Anthropology Newsletter, July 1989.

  • "Household and Marriage  in a Thai Highland Society" J. Siam Society, 1988, 76: 162-173.

  • "The Hmong" In Jupp, J. et al eds. THE AUSTRALIAN PEOPLE (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1988).

  • "Ethnic Minorities and National Building in Laos: The Hmong in the Lao State" Peninsule, France, 1988.

  • "The Hmong in Sydney: Community Profile and Educational Needs" Outreach Report, (Sydney: Wetherill Park College of TAFE, 1987).

  • "White Hmong Kinship: Terminology and Structure" Hmong World, 1, Yale University Southeast Asian Studies, 1986.

  • "Culture and Adaptation: Hmong Refugees in Australia" In Hendricks, G. et al eds. THE HMONG IN TRANSITION (New York: Centre for Migration Studies, 1986).

  • "Minority Policies and the Hmong" In Stuart-Fox, M. ed. CONTEMPORARY LAOS  (St. Lucia: Queensland University Press, 1982).

  • "Traumas of Refugees in Australia" Austcare Bulletin, August 1976. Reprinted in Poussard, W. ed. TODAY IS A REAL DAY (Blackburn, Vic: Dove Communications, 1981).

  • "Migrant and Refugee Youth: a New Challenge" An occasional paper, Ethnic Communities Council of NSW, 1981.

  • "Refugees: It's Like Being Deaf and Dumb" , Migration in Action, Autumn 1976, 11(4): 19-20.

His professional interests include consultancy, literature and literary theories, community studies and development, helping people/casework, management and technological change, multiculturalism, migrant and gender studies, child and youth welfare, bilingual education, social work, welfare sociology, ecology and social adaptation, life span studies, oral history, transationalism and Hmong media, diaspora and globalisation, postcolonial and cultural studies, critical studies, health and healing, research and teaching.


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