Stirling Times

Father’s sacrifice in Dempsey’s thoughts

- Justin Bianchini

WA football legend Bill Dempsey’s mind will turn to his father, William, this Anzac Day.

A man he only knew as a small child but who blazed a trail as one of several Aboriginal soldiers who served in World War II.

“My father he was a sergeant in the army and he fought in New Guinea,” Bill said.

“When he came back from New Guinea, he caught meningitis and he died when I was three.

“I was pretty proud he was a sergeant.”

Bill was speaking to the Times at the weekend after signing copies of his life story, The Boy from Birdum, at

the football club where he made his name, West Perth.

“I will be thinking of my dad and all the guys, both Aboriginal people and nonAborigi­nal people,” he said.

“You had to admire the whole lot of Australian­s that went away and fought.

“And I’m glad now that

Indigenous people are being recognised.

“Because my dad couldn’t take my mother to an RSL club because he wasn’t allowed to. So that was a bit sad.”

Bill was sitting beside his great Italian friend and longtime West Perth supporter Ben Re.

“West Perth never made a big thing of it (being Indigenous),” Bill said. “It was a multicultu­ral club.

“They had Greeks, Slavs, Italians, ordinary Australian­s, me, Aboriginal­s and so I fitted in really well.

“Like, this man here, Ben Re, he took me under his wing. And I call him uncle.”

 ?? Picture: Justin Bianchini ?? Bill Dempsey and Ben Re at the West Perth Football Club.
Picture: Justin Bianchini Bill Dempsey and Ben Re at the West Perth Football Club.
 ??  ?? William Dempsey.
William Dempsey.

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