A thirst for international understanding and communication

Gabby Lawrence has been fortunate to be able to follow her interests in human rights, refugee law, and health, in academic, professional and voluntary spaces.

You don't know me, but I was once a little IHer just like you. I swiped right on IH and it was a match. I moved from the microcosm of Darwin to the microcosm of IH and fell in love with the opportunity and wonder that it presented to me.  We had many awesome dates in Chinatown, the Jace, Pugg Mahones, the various sports ovals around, witnessing the borrowing of the Ormond bee head, and some not so awesome ‘all-nighter’ dates in the computer room, the Jace, and dining hall #2000wordstogo #whenisshopopen...  

Since graduation and further study I have been fortunate to be able to follow my interests in human rights, refugee law, and health, in academic, professional and voluntary spaces.  Growing up in Darwin instilled me with a sense of awareness about how our society recognises and provides for those who are marginalised.  Studying at Melbourne allowed me to realise the value of education and the impact we can have on the lives of others. To pursue my interests I undertook post-graduate study while working full-time for the Department of Immigration.
I have been lucky enough to work under several governments and in various challenging roles, including interviewing asylum seekers for refugee status determination, one of the most unique, humbling, and important roles I could ever have asked for.

Gabby in India
Although it was very hard work, this experience made me value the opportunity we have in Melbourne and Australia to not only gain education, but to apply our knowledge, skills, and experience, and be inspired by those around us – and at IH 

Your fellow IHers might be some of the most inspiring people you could study beside.  The sense of community provided by IH has stayed with me. 

I have been lucky to be able to follow my passions and interests as well as maintain community links through volunteering and working as a solicitor, including helping to establish a legal information service for victims of human trafficking in sexual servitude.  

I am currently working in an extremely dynamic role as Senior Research Officer for the Refugee and Humanitarian Branch of the Department of Immigration, and am constantly thankful I get to keep my thirst for international understanding and communication alive in such an interesting way. So when I was given the opportunity to visit Nepal and meet the founders of an anti-trafficking organisation, as well as volunteer with a rural community to deliver health education and literacy programs, I jumped at the chance.

Ever sat in the Jace and wondered what masala tea tastes like at sunrise on the side of a small village overlooking the Himalayas?  Ever wondered what an entire village sounds like as they dance and sing and welcome you into their village?  Ever wondered what it might feel like to be given what seems like everything from those who have what seems like nothing?  Are you curious about what you might learn about some of the most beautiful places and beautiful people in the world, and even yourself?  

As a non-medic who hadn't really slept in a tent outside Victoria, I was fully embraced by the Wild Medic Project team, our support crew in Nepal, and every new person I met in Nepal.  It was undoubtedly one of the most fun, eye-opening, testing, and rewarding times of my life.  I was able to visit with grassroots not-for-profits assisting some of the most vulnerable people, especially women and children, in situations of human trafficking at SASANE. After trekking two hours up a mountainside I was able to get hands on by assisting the team delivering health clinics and setting up a locally-based women’s health committee. As good as the IH chefs were when I was there, the Nepali trekking chefs do the most amazing things with a tiny portable stove!


A crippling fuel blockade was another cruel blow for the people of Nepal, on the back of the ANZAC day 2015 earthquake of 7.8 magnitude that claimed over 8,800 lives. It cannot be understated how humbling it is to visit a place where natural and political disasters have inflicted so much damage on people who show so little evidence of suffering. There are so many lessons one can take from visiting Nepal, especially through volunteering your skills.  Be warned - masala tea is VERY addictive.

Because of a place like IH, I am still enjoying a constant sense of opportunity, wonder and gratitude. As the courtyard sun-clock reminded me - tempus fugit.  Follow what interests you, keep questioning the status quo. There is no limit to where the values and experiences you are gaining at IH can take you, or to what you can do with them, not only for you but for other people.
It’s up to you.  

Also, if you are considering some volunteering experience in the medical field in Australia and also one of the most unique and beautiful places possible, please feel to check these guys out:

  • The Wild Medic Project runs volunteer-expedition trips to Nepal to help communities recovering from the earthquake and engage in health literacy and information programs.  Positions are available for a variety of skills for students and professionals alike, especially in the medical and health field.
  • K’Sparkle is a non-profit organisation based in Melbourne driven to support education for girls and safety for kids at local, national and international levels.

Gabby Lawrence