Kelvin Kong is a devoted man. He is a surgeon, researcher, lecturer and advocate for Indigenous people and their health. Put simply, he helps others.
So it was no surprise that after being named Newcastle's Citizen of the Year on Wednesday, he shifted the attention away from himself.
"It's a privilege and an honour, but the biggest thing for me is I don't like the limelight and I don't like thinking this is an honour we assume onto someone. Rather, what I'm doing is accepting this on behalf of the people who miss out," he said.
"All the kids who don't get their hearing, all the kids who don't get equal access, all the community and health workers who do hard work. This is a representation of them. Without them, I wouldn't be doing this. And without that type of passion, we wouldn't be here."
Dr Kong was presented with the Citizen of the Year medal by lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes in front of a small crowd at a ceremony atop the council's administration centre in Newcastle West yesterday morning.
The Worimi man, who was Australia's first recognised Indigenous surgeon and remains one of only three in the country, was recognised for his work in health and the broader community.
When he is not working out of his practice in Broadmeadow, Dr Kong researches Alloiococcus otitidis - an organism prevalent in ear disease - with the Hunter Medical Research Institute. He also lectures at the University of Newcastle.
He is passionate about addressing the disparity in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children, and spends countless hours working in remote communities around Australia each year.
He also has a deep love for Newcastle and the region, having grown up at Shoal Bay in Port Stephens.
No doubt an inspiration to many, when asked if there were Novocastrians that had inspired him, Dr Kong said the late Jill Emberson, Mark Richards and "a lot of people from the medical fraternity".
But his main source of inspiration was closer to home.
"The rock of my support are people who are probably not well known," he said.
"My mother, my grandmother, my grandfather - my grandfather worked on a tug over there in the harbour. "For an Aboriginal man in those days, to have a steady job over a long period of time was very well regarded and probably showed the working testament that he had, and that's a real reflection of some of our family and what we do. I count my lucky stars every day, I'm very blessed."
Professional netballer Samantha Poolman was named Young Citizen of the Year for her contributions to women and girls in sport, representing Newcastle in the GIANTS Netball team. She is also an ambassador for the Confident Girls Foundation
Ms Poolman spoke of her love the city in her acceptance speech and said bringing 22 netball associations together for an event last year, which raised $12,000 for bushfire-hit communities, was one of her "proudest achievements yet".
Carrington Bowling Club CEO Jaci Lappin was named Senior Citizen of the Year for her dedication to providing a safe and inclusive space for the community to gather.
Hamilton Business Association claimed Community Group of the Year for its work bettering Beaumont Street and its surrounds.
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