Upstanding Novocastrians honoured at award ceremony

Upstanding Novocastrians honoured at award ceremony

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.

Dr Kong said he was humbled by the award.

“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 Citizen of the Year gong at an intimate award ceremony in Newcastle today.

“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,” Cr Nelmes said.

“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.”

Awarded Newcastle’s Young Citizen of the Year 2021 was professional netballer Samantha Poolman.

Samantha was recognised for her contributions to women and girls in sport, representing Newcastle 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 Samantha 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.

This year City of Newcastle also awarded a Senior Citizen of the Year accolade to Jaci Lappin, CEO of Carrington Bowling Club, for her dedication to providing a safe, inclusive space for the community to gather, enriching the City’s vibrant social tapestry through a range of community activities. This became even more significant at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when social isolation was prevalent.

Jaci was also the driving force behind fundraisers to install solar panels and complete much-needed renovations to the club.

“Both Samantha and Jaci are well respected, well-loved members of our community who give so much of their time to that which they are passionate about for the benefit of others, and I’m pleased to be able to formally acknowledge their contributions,” the Lord Mayor said.

Taking out Community Group of the Year 2021, Hamilton Business Association Inc was recognised for its commitment to the betterment of the Hamilton community, and the Association’s renewed sense of purpose to attract people to the Beaumont Street precinct and surrounds.

City of Newcastle’s Awards Program is judged by a panel consisting of Nuatali Nelmes, Lord Mayor of Newcastle; Carol Duncan, Councillor City of Newcastle; Andrea Rufo, Councillor City of Newcastle; Jeremy Bath, CEO City of Newcastle; Pastor Sue Irwin, The Grainery Church; Michelle Faithfull, Citizen of the Year 2020; Alexa Stuart, Young Citizen of the Year 2020 and Ivan Skaines, representing Newcastle Pride, Community Group of the Year 2020

IMAGE | Citizen of the Year 2021 Dr Kelvin Kong with Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes and Citizen of the Year 2020 Michelle Faithfull.

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