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Filipino community advocate Gary Lee receives Order of Australia Medal

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Community advocate and founder of dance crews PoisE’n and PoisE’n Bollypop, Gary Lee, has been awarded an Order of Australia medal. He received his medal at a ceremony held at Government House on 14 September 2023.

Over a decade ago, he founded PoisE’n and PoisE’n Bollypop dance crews to create platforms to engage international students with the local community through dance. His core members, including Veronica Perez from El Salvador and Hope Dolino from the Philippines, have extended their reach to fashion and other performing arts, creative platforms that naturally transcend cultures.

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. He has a natural ability to embrace different cultures, which makes him part of many high profile cultural celebrations. He lives and breathes for the community he serves, including the Filipino community in Melbourne and beyond.

Gary Lee is a long-time advocate for the Australian-Filipino community, going back to 2012 when he first collaborated with ‘So You Think You Can Dance 2008’ Demi Sorono, known by her break dance name Demolition B Girl to run “Tough Chicks,” a self-defence and hip hop program designed to empower young women with the skills, knowledge and confidence to handle situations they encounter on the streets.

Gary Lee OAM PCG
Gary Lee, OAM

In 2013, he collaborated with Demi again, this time alongside a cast of over 40 performers, to host a concert to raise funds to support victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Funds raised were used to support Demi’s on-the-ground relief work, including clean-up and rebuilding of homes in Cebu.

Demi would then go on to produce ‘A Touch of Grace: Shadow Warrior,’ a powerful one-woman show (a partnership with Phunktional) that recounted her story of hardship as she moved to Australia with her family from the Philippines.

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In 2018, Gary was engaged by Study Gold Coast as a Student Emissary in Residence to support diversity strategies as part of the Commonwealth Games. The iconic sporting event attracted over 6,600 athletes and team officials from 71 nations and territories, 5,000 passionate volunteers, a spectacle of 18 sports and 7 para-sports broadcasted to a cumulative global audience of 1.5 billion. Then, he had the opportunity to work with several global influencers, including Filipino television presenter Gretchen Ho. Apart from being part of social media campaigns, the duo also filmed fun segments where Gretchen tried an Aussie pack of local Australian treats, including Vegemite!

In 2021, Gary collaborated with Kimberly Mitchiko, President of the Filipino-Australian Student Council of Victoria, to host the Kamayan Festival, a communal feast celebrating the food and culture of the Philippines at The Couch – International Student Centre with other students from around the world.

Gary and Kimberly would then co-present at an Asialink Leaders program session, sharing their perspectives on diversity and inclusion.

Finally, Gary has also crossed paths with Jodilly Pendre, the first runner-up from Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 2, who currently resides in Melbourne. They had an instant connection, and Gary took the opportunity to invite her to be part of the Couch Conversations, where Jodilly got the chance to share her professional and personal journey from model turn DJ, including the challenges, opportunities, and inspirations.

(Source: Veronica Perez)

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