Australia’s first recognised indigenous surgeon and a passionate advocate for health equality, Associate Professor Kelvin Kong, has been honoured as City of Newcastle’s Citizen of the Year 2021.
When he’s not tending to patients at his Broadmeadow practice or performing operations, Dr Kong devotes his time to researching Alloiococcus otitidis – an organism prevalent in ear disease – with the Hunter Medical Research Institute and lecturing students at the University of Newcastle.
As one of only three indigenous surgeons in the country, Dr Kong is passionate about addressing the disparity in health outcomes between indigenous and non-indigenous children.
Each year, he spends time working in remote Australian communities, providing access to quality healthcare that would otherwise be limited or unavailable.
“Indigenous people have been practicing medicine in this country for 60,000 years, a history I am proud to be part of and carry on for future generations,” Dr Kong said.
“I am both humbled and galvanised by this prestigious award, to continue striving towards improved ear health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.”
Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said Dr Kong’s demonstrated leadership in Aboriginal health service delivery, advocacy and research had earned him the gong.
“Dr Kong exemplifies the values of the Citizen of the Year title, representing Newcastle at the top of his field and working tirelessly to improve health outcomes among disadvantaged communities,” she explained.
“The year 2020 was challenging for our health professionals, so it is apt that today we recognised Dr Kong for his continued efforts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Apart from Dr Kong, professional netballer Samantha Poolman was also recognised as Newcastle’s Young Citizen of the Year 2021.
Poolman, of Rankin Park, was acknowledged for her contributions to women and girls in sport, representing the city in the GIANTS Netball team at the sport’s most elite level.
She is also an ambassador for the Confident Girls Foundation, inspiring and empowering a new generation of young netballers.
In 2020, Poolman led a fundraiser for Black Summer bushfire-affected communities through her Hunter athlete development program, Aspire Netball, which raised $12,000 for Netball Bushfire Relief.
In other awards, Senior Citizen of the Year went to Carrington Bowling Club chief executive Jaci Lappin for her dedication to providing a safe, inclusive space for people to gather and reducing social isolation through a range of community activities.
Ms Lappin was also the driving force behind fundraisers to install solar panels and complete much-needed renovations to the club.
Taking out Community Group of the Year 2021, Hamilton Business Association Inc was recognised for its commitment to the betterment of the Hamilton community, as well as its renewed sense of purpose to attract people to the Beaumont Street precinct and surrounds.
The association has worked closely with the council during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the community’s safety, a partnership from which the LiveSpots initiative was born, helping local musicians recover from the pandemic’s economic impact.
The citizenship awards took place at the council’s administration centre in Stewart Avenue today (Wednesday 20 January).