Gary was born in Ban Houei Kouang, Muong Mok, Xieng Khouang, Laos, in 1949. He 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, Gary’s 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 Masters by Research (1975) and Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (1972) from the University of New South Wales, Australia. He received the Eagle Award for life-time contribution to Hmong studies from Concordia University, USA, in 2006.
Until his retirement in 2014, Gary worked as a bilingual welfare service coordinator with the Cabramatta Community Centre in Sydney, Australia. From 2006 to 2007, he was the first scholar-in-residence at the Center for Hmong Studies at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. In this role, Gary developed and taught five courses on Hmong culture, history, society, religion and literature. Prior to this, Gary was a visiting fellow in anthropology to the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia from 2001-2002. From 1987 to 2000, Gary worked with the Ethnic Affairs Commission of New South Wales, dealing with migrant and refugee communities from Asia, the Indian sub-continent, Europe and the South Pacific. Before this, he taught social work at the University of New South Wales (1974-75), and social anthropology at Macquarie University, Sydney (1986-87). Gary has also worked with Indochinese young refugees and children on both a paid and voluntary basis since their settlement in Australia in 1975.
Gary has been as a member of the management committees for many organisations, including: Indo-China Refugee Association (NSW); Multicultural Access Advisory Committee of Fairfield City Council; Management Committee of Service for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors; Ethnic Communities Council of New South Wales; Chinese Studies Group of the University of Sydney; Asian-Australian Resource Centre; Mt. Druitt Ethnic Communities Agency; Bonnyrigg Youth Centre; Public Service Association of NSW; Research Institute for Asia and the Pacific, University of Sydney; Independent Teachers Association; South East Asian Community Assistance Centre (now Cabramatta Community Centre); Refugee and Social Welfare Subcommittees, Ethnic Communities Council of NSW; Francis Street Centre (Refugee Youth Refuge) of the Wesley Central Mission in Sydney; Centre for Asian Studies, Sydney University; Australia-China Friendship Society; Austcare (Australia Care for Refugees); Australian Council for Overseas Aid; 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), the evaluation of UN crop replacement projects among highland opium growers in Northern Thailand (1977-78), and war refugees generated by the "Secret War" in Laos (1974).
Gary was a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Lao Studies of the Center for Lao Studies in San Francisco, USA, having also served as editor of the Lao Studies Review for the Lao Studies Society in 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 speak at many national and international conferences and forums.
Gary’s 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, trans-nationalism and Hmong media, diaspora and globalisation, postcolonial and cultural studies, critical studies, health and healing and research and teaching.