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Myself as a young 14 year old high school student

Vientiane, Laos, 1963

Known by my Hmong name as Txawj Yias Lis or Dr. Lis Yias, I was born in Ban Houei Khang (Fib Khab), Muong Nong Het, Xieng Khouang province, Laos, in 1949. 


Looking back, it is hard to believe that I have ended up spending the last 50 years living in Australia – something dictated by the accidents of history but hardly foreseen when I was a young boy tending to the family buffalo and horses, and helping my parents with farming after school in Xieng Khouang city in the 1950’s. In no small way, I have the Pathet Lao military hero, the late Mr Ya Thor Tou, to thank for this good fortune. Due to his pursuit of members of the Lee clan during the Lau-Lee conflict in Nong Het, my family escaped to live in the city when I was only one month old (please see interview with my father in this website). This gave me the opportunity to receive my primary education (1955-1960) alongside only a handful of other Hmong students. Although Laos gained independence from the French in 1954, schooling was still all done in the French language at the time. Largely thanks to a great passion for reading and using other languages in the multi-lingual society of Laos, I am today fluent in English, Lao, Hmong, Thai and French.


After completing the “diplome” at the Lycee of Vientiane, I went to Australia in 1965 for further education under the Colombo Plan, sponsored by the Australian Government. I subsequently obtained a Master degree by research (1975) and a Bachelor degree - both in social work (1972) from University of New South Wales, Australia. From 1976 to 1980, I studied and completed my Ph.D. in social anthropology from the University of Sydney. I married my wife, May Lee Lee (nee Yang), in Ban Vinai Refugee Camp in December 1976, and took her to live in Ban Khun Wang, Ampher Mae Wang, Chiangmai, Thailand, where I did my Ph.D. fieldwork until early 1978. We have since been living in Australia with our four children: Melinda, Sheree, Stephen and Debbie.


Helping people deal with their needs has been my life-long interest and career choice. I have worked with Indochinese young refugees and children on both paid and voluntary basis since their settlement in Australia in 1975. From 1987 to 2000, I was employed at 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. I then worked as a bilingual welfare service manager with the Cabramatta Community Centre, Sydney, Australia for 10 years and retired in December 2014. I have since devoted my time to travelling with my dear wife, reading, writing, helping students and researchers on the Hmong, working in the garden and around the house, and caring for my grand-children.


Although not a professional academic by choice, I taught social work at the University of New South Wales (1974-75), and social anthropology at Macquarie University, Sydney (1986-87). I was a visiting fellow in anthropology to the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia in 2001-2002. I then went to the USA as the first scholar-in-residence at the Centre for Hmong Studies, Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, from 2006 to 2007. In this role, I developed and taught five courses on Hmong culture, history, society, religion and literature. In 2006, the University bestowed me the Eagle Award for life-time contribution to Hmong studies through my research and many publications. It also gave me an honorary Doctorate of Letters degree in 2008, the first of its kind for a Hmong scholar. I have always tried to publish 1-2 articles on the Hmong annually. Hopefully this small output can be sustained for a few more years to come.


My interest in refugee and welfare work involved me as a member of the management committees of many local welfare organisations in Sydney. I was the Founding President of the Lao Students Association in Australia (1971), and a foundation member of the Hmong-Australia Society (1978). The Hmong has always been my major research area, but I have 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), Hmong rebellions in Laos (2004-2007) and on war refugees generated by the "secret war" in Laos (1974). I helped found and served as editor of the Lao Studies Review for the Lao Studies Society, Sydney, Australia, from 1991 to 1996. I have also acted as referee for the Journal of Asian and Pacific Migration (Quezon City, Philippines) and the International Review of Migration (New York, USA), and other academic journals. I have assisted in the convening of conferences on Indochinese and Hmong refugees, and have been invited to be speaker at many national and international conferences and forums.


Below is a list of my publications, most of which are reproduced in this website:


  • “Hmong Studies in Selected European Languages”, in Hmong Studies: a Review of Literature. Edited by Dr. Song Lee and Gary Yia Lee (forthcoming).

  • “Literature Review of Hmong studies in Australia and New Zealand”, op.cit.

  •  “Nicholas Tapp: a Lasting Legacy for Hmong Studies”, Journal of Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiangmai University, January 2017.

  • “The Spirit of Enterprise and the Emergence of Hmong and Hmong American Identities: Reflections of a Hmong Anthropologist”, in Hmong and American: from Refugees to Citizens eds. Her, V. K. and Buley, M. L. St Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2012.

  • “Hmong Traditional Religion in Australia”, in From Laos to Fairfield with Faiths and Cultures, eds. Lee, G. Y. and Vanthavong, P. Cabramatta: Lao Community Advancement (NSW) Co-operative, 2011. A Chinese version was published in MINZU YANJIU – Ethno-National Studies, Vol. 4, 2011.

  • Culture and Customs of the Hmong, c-authored with Tapp, N. , Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Press, 2010.

  • “Transnational Space and Social Memories: Why the Hmong in the Diaspora Cannot Forget Laos?”, in The impact of Globalization and Trans-nationalism on the Hmong, ed. Lee, G.Y. St. Paul, MN: Center for Hmong Studies, Concordia University, 2009.

  • “Nostalgia and Cultural Re-creation: the Case of the Hmong Diaspora”, Crossroads, 19(2), 2008

  • “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: HmonglandPublications, 2004).

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

  • “Refugee Settlement and Culture: the Present Situation of the Hmong in Australia”, in N.Tapp and G. Lee, 2004, 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., 2004, 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.


As in previous years, my professional interests include fiction writing, literature and literary theories, community studies and development, helping people/casework, multiculturalism, migrant and gender studies, child and youth welfare, bilingual education, social work, welfare sociology, ecology and social adaptation, life span studies, oral history, Hmong identity and trans-nationalism, diaspora and globalisation, postcolonial and cultural studies, and critical studies.

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