A community leader and passionate advocate for international students, Gary Lee’s hard work has been recognised after being named the August 2020 AFL Community Ambassador of the month.

First arriving in Melbourne as an international student from Malaysia, Lee quickly fell in love with the city and everything it had to offer.

“It was the opportunity to make a difference that really got me,” said Lee.

“In Australia, I could be myself which is supporting other people and making sure no one is left behind.

“There are a lot of people in Australia who don’t have much but are willing to give everything to help others and this Australian spirit is everything I am about.”

Working closely with The Huddle, the North Melbourne Football Club’s award winning community arm, Lee has worked tirelessly with international students empowering them to learn new skills, grow their network and form new connections within the community through Welcome to AFL sessions.

“The Welcome to AFL sessions are a holistic way to enjoy football and it is something that the students really love doing.

“The staff at The Huddle are great in engaging with students. It’s the heart and soul of what The Huddle does and really ties into what I love to do.

“Sport unites us even when we are apart and it helps when you have a kangaroo, a quintessential Australian animal, as a mascot.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Welcome to AFL sessions will look a little different being run via ZOOM for the first time, but this is a challenge that Lee has taken in his stride.

“COVID-19 has played a role in how we can deliver the sessions currently but even if it is run for only five people, if they learn something and develop a sense of belonging to their new home then these are really great outcomes.

“A lot of students arrived in Melbourne and went straight into lockdown, so we want to let them know that we are here for them. We want with them to connect with people which is where the AFL sessions really come into play.

“I’m hoping to give students the knowledge to have conversations around sport in the workplace or while studying.”

As he continues to support the international student community to navigate the challenges of COVID-19, The Huddle would like to thank and acknowledge the selfless work of Lee in empowering students to learn, grow and belong. 

Lee’s nomination will see him go in the running to be the National Community Ambassador of the Year.