Introducing NGN member, Gilbert Mak

Each month MMIC profiles a member of our Next Generation Network to showcase the incredible research being undertaken by our network of postgraduate and early career researchers. This month we sat down with Gilbert Mak (Monash University) to discuss his recently conferred PhD research on refugee settlement in Australia.

What is your research about?

First of all, thank you MMIC for providing this platform to feature our research! I study refugee settlement in Australia from the NGO’s perspective—much like what’s happening ‘behind-the-scenes’. I offer insights on the NGO’s internal struggles and strategies in supporting refugees. My ethnography suggests that these struggles are deeply political and require constant negotiation with the vested interests of various parties, including refugees, staff/volunteers, the NGO’s management, the neoliberal market, and the government, in order to materialise their support.

What led to your interest in this topic?

In an increasingly volatile world characterised by unstable regimes— such as the Ukraine/Russian war happening right now—we are facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. My interest stems from the point in which refugees receive meaningful support, i.e., their encounter with local NGOs, while navigating a new society. I care about this cause, so I got involved with some NGOs to support refugee settlement. However, my experience suggests this process is far more complex than simply sourcing funding for the required support services. These internal complexities are important yet understudied to understand how support is carried out. As such, it inspires me to embark on the ethnography of NGO.

What books/podcasts/movies/articles are currently inspiring you?

I put off reading “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini until recently and am currently only halfway through it. Given what the world has been through the past two years and still going through today, this book illustrates what humanity needs in the best possible way by exploring the beauty of everyday resilience in face of adversities. This book constantly reminds me how blessed and privileged I am, and I am thus humbled by the story portrayed in this book.

Outside academia, what are your interests?

I like to inspire and uplift people by sharing my knowledge with them, and contributing my time, such as through volunteering. Perhaps this also explains why I am passionate in teaching (and learning!). On the other hand, I am also into tech news and inventions, as I firmly believe in the emancipatory potential of technology in human lives.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

Given my education background, right now I am focusing on pursuing my (provisional) psychology registration with AHPRA. While I never imagined myself doing a PhD, I have always seen myself as a psychologist since I was young. Practising psychology would signify a different form of ‘teaching’ in life, which is what I am passionate about.

Interested in connecting with Gilbert? You can find him on Twitter or contact him via email