The Boy from Birdum: The Bill Dempsey Story


FISH - Foundation for Indigenous Sustainable Health

Bill Dempsey is a humble achiever. He is known primarily as a champion footballer with West Perth and the Darwin Buffaloes. A premiership captain who played over 400 games in 20 seasons in Perth and the Northern Territory, and a member of the AFL’s Indigenous Team of the Century, his record and his achievements compare with the very best. He is revered as a true legend at West Perth.

Bill has led a remarkable life. Born in the shadow of Japanese bombing raids in 1942. Forcibly removed from his mother after the death of his father and baby sister, he was a stolen child who never lost contact with his family and found a second family amongst his fellow inmates at the Retta Dixon Home. Brought to Perth at the age of seventeen as a ‘spare wheel’ to his mate Jim Anderson, he stayed on to become a football champion and a trailblazer as an Aboriginal entrepreneur throughout the 80s. In The Boy from Birdum, Bill tells his story frankly, courageously, and with the charismatic flair of a natural-born yarn spinner.

About Author

William (Bill) Dempsey MBE is a former Australian rules footballer who played for the Darwin (Buffaloes) Football Club in the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) and the West Perth Football Club (Cardinals) in the Western Australian National Football League (WANFL). Born in Birdum (NT), and descended from the Jingili, Warramunga and Ngalakan peoples, Bill Dempsey is an inductee of both the AFL Northern Territory and the West Australian Football Halls of Fame.

Steve Hawke grew up in Melbourne but found his way to the Northern Territory and then to the Kimberley as a nineteen year old in 1978. Captivated by the country, the history and the people, he stayed for almost fifteen years working for Aboriginal communities and organisations. He now lives in the hills outside Perth, but continues his strong association with the Kimberley, returning most years. Steve is a non-Indigenous collaborator and his writings on the Kimberley include Noonkanbah (1989), Barefoot Kids (2007), a children’s novel set in Broome, and the play Jandamarra that premiered at the Perth International Arts Festival in 2008, and toured the Kimberley in 2011.

About the Book


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