When Kelvin Kong was 18, he was introduced to an Australian rite of passage - going to a pub.
But his first experience in a pub in the Hunter was anything but ordinary.
"Going to the pub is such an Australian thing to do - people celebrate it," said Dr Kong, a renowned Newcastle ear, nose and throat surgeon.
When his uncles, aunties and cousins took him to the pub, they advised him to be careful and showed him where to stand.
READ MORE: The Herald's Opinion on Dr Kong's message
The idea was to look for places close to the exit, "so if something goes down, you can get out straight away".
He was told to always "be alert" to the prospect of being picked on.
Their advice was based on their upbringing and reflected an "unconscious bias" in society towards black people.
"You're the one that's going to be picked on, you're the one that's going to be asked for ID," he said.
"It's hard to explain to a lot of my non-Aboriginal friends because they don't really experience that."
Dr Kong grew up in Shoal Bay in a two-bedroom fibro house with his mum, step father John and two sisters.
In 2007, he became Australia's first Indigenous surgeon [aside, he points out, from traditional healers]. He remains one of only three Aboriginal surgeons in the country.
"I'm a Worimi man first and foremost," Dr Kong said.
He's also a University of Newcastle Associate Professor in the School of Medicine and Public Health. He has a particular focus on ear disease and hearing loss, which is prevalent in Indigenous communities.
As well as his work in the Hunter, he travels to remote communities to provide medical services that would otherwise be unavailable.
Dr Kong doesn't see himself as an Aboriginal person who has risen up.
"I think a lot of our mob are high achievers, but most have been pushed down," he said.
He believes the Black Lives Matter movement is very important.
"It has been brewing for some time, in and around the kind of disparity and injustice that we see," he said.
George Floyd's death in the US, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, brought tensions to the surface. The American situation spread to Australia, which wasn't surprising to Dr Kong.
"I think a lot of the injustice that we see in Australia is very similar and on par to America," he said, highlighting the failure of authorities to deal with Aboriginal deaths in custody.
POWER OF MUSIC
It was, in fact, African-American music and culture that Dr Kong related to as a youngster, particularly the hip-hop and rap movement.
"It was the representation of a lot of things that we were experiencing. What I felt was exhibited in a lot of the lyrics," he said.
This hip-hop music of the 1980s and '90s often drew from the gangster culture of urban life in the US. But it wasn't the gang life that appealed to Dr Kong, it was the message in the music that resonated. It reflected the plight of people of colour.
"We don't have that gang culture in Australia. But I think growing up in ghettos or vulnerable communities where there's a lot of social welfare, you can relate to the kinds of stories people talk about in that music," he said.
It's a sentiment that echoes through the generations. Nowadays when he travels to remote Aboriginal communities, he sees kids with T-shirts displaying hip-hop artists like Tupac and Biggie.
"We have amazing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, but access to their music growing up was hard and mainstream avenues never promoted them."
In his youth, Dr Kong was particularly drawn to the hip-hop artist Ice Cube for his music and starring role in the iconic film, Boyz n the Hood. That Dr Kong and his friends turned to this culture was not surprising, given the "vanilla" nature of Australian TV.
"All those programs everyone grew up with - like Home and Away and Neighbours - were so vanilla," he said.
"I couldn't relate to anyone on those shows and it certainly didn't represent the community I grew up in."
He said this still occurs now with "news presenters, celebrities, the whole gamut".
"When you look at that kind of culture in Australia, you realise it's pervasive through the community," he said.
He said the Black Lives Matter movement had sparked "the long conversations we've been trying to have in Australia for a long time".
"Unfortunately, those conversations have been hard because people don't talk in a level-headed way.
"Emotion becomes involved in it."
He said the Australian Black Lives Matter movement was evolving into a conversation about "the inequality and racism we see and live with as First Nation people".
"This extends to our fight for equality to improve health, education and wellbeing.
"So much of this stems from bias against Aboriginal Australia."
OVERT AND COVERT
Dr Kong believes an important aspect of the movement is recognising the differences in Australia between "First Nation people and non-Indigenous people in their daily lives".
An example is the way Aboriginal people experience the healthcare system.
There should be "parity" between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in healthcare.
"We're not in a Third World country, it shouldn't be hard," he said.
If more people can better understand what it's like to be an Aboriginal person in Australia - to walk in their shoes, so to speak - "maybe that would help".
This involves the concept of overt and covert racism.
"The overt is easy. If people are racist and quite rude, you can call it out," he said.
Covert racism is harder to manage because it involves changing systems.
In the medical world, for example, Aboriginal people have high rates of not attending appointments and leaving hospital before they get treatment.
Instead of apportioning blame, Dr Kong believes understanding and adaptation is needed.
This situation was not so much a reflection of the people but "how we're delivering services".
To grasp this, empathy is needed to understand what Aboriginal people experience and endure.
"My nan and pop avoided hospital because it's associated with death. And when they were in hospital, they were looked down upon. They were told they were dirty and didn't look after their kids," he said.
And getting to hospitals like John Hunter and Gosford can be "a nightmare if you're on public transport".
IN OTHER NEWS:
This is partly why Dr Kong is involved in running specialised hospital clinics with the Aboriginal Medical Service in places like Newcastle (Awabakal), Foster (Tobwabba), Taree (Biripi), Tamworth (TAMS) and Inverell (Armajun).
When medical services for Aboriginal people were moved from hospital to the community, attendance rates rose dramatically.
"We had more people there because they're comfortable, they know how to get there, the access is easy and they feel culturally safe," he said.
Nevertheless, equity and access for Aboriginal people in the medical system remains a significant problem.
"If you have cancer as an Aboriginal patient, you are less likely to get the same treatment offered than if you're non-Indigenous.
"Our cancer survival rates are far worse than the general population."
He said it was important for the medical fraternity to "unpack and unwind the reasons why this happens" and reflect on the biases that cause such inequity. Personally, he meets discrimination with a measured response.
"The skin I'm in now is very different to the skin I was in when I was growing up."
He enjoys discussing race. People often ask his opinion on matters like Australia Day.
"It's really interesting to engage in that conversation. As a proud Australian, I want the day to be representative of everyone," he said.
When discussing the removal of colonial statues, for example, he notes the lack of "statues of Aboriginal warriors".
"For me personally, it'd be really nice to acknowledge those warriors," he said.
He encourages his own children to be proud of their Aboriginality.
When his son wore an Aboriginal shirt to preschool for the first time "it brought a tear to my eye".
"When I was growing up, you wouldn't even think about that. In my mum's day, you would have hidden from that," he said.
He can feel change happening with race and equality, especially among the young.
"We need to keep nurturing and embracing that as much as we can," he said.
"That means in 10 to 15 years time, this conversation won't even happen because it will be so part and parcel, you won't think twice about an Aboriginal surgeon. There will be so many others."