2023 Western Australian of the Year Awards

Sport Award Finalists

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The Sport Award is presented in celebration of excellence in achievement, development or promotion of sport at a state, national or international level, with a focus on contribution to the Western Australian community.

Meet our 2023 Sport Award finalists:

Bill Dempsey MBE

Bill Dempsey MBE is a legendary Indigenous Australian Rules Football player who has positively influenced the lives of prisoners for almost half a century. Bill’s football career spans 343 games at West Perth, where he earned a reputation as a highly respected leader, playing the game fairly and passionately. Bill was a three-time Premiership player (1969, 1971, 1975), Premiership Captain (1975), and Simpson Medallist (1969). He was also named in the West Perth Team of the Century (2000) and the Indigenous Team of the Century (2005) and was inducted into the WA Football Hall of Fame (2004) and the Australian Rules Football Hall of Fame (2022).

Bill’s contribution to the community is equally impressive. He saw the potential to change the lives of struggling young men after retirement and became a participant in the Elders’ Program established at Karnet prison in 1977. He has since spent 46 years mentoring young Aboriginal men and women, working with soon-to-be-released prisoners to help break the cycle of repeat offending. Bill offers direct guidance, helping prisoners find employment and accommodation and building stable support networks.

Throughout his career, Bill has shown humility, selflessness, and a desire to give back to the community. He has never been driven by fame and feels uncomfortable with any celebrity status. Instead, the connections and respect he earned through football gave him what he was seeking in life – the security of being in charge of his own destiny. His exemplary community work has changed the lives of many for the better, and he remains committed to helping others whenever he can.

Josh Kennedy

Josh Kennedy is a former Australian Football League (AFL) star and Eagles Premiership player who has had an extraordinary career. He is the West Coast Eagles’ all-time leading goal-kicker and a three-time All-Australian. Josh’s contributions to the community are as significant as his sporting achievements. He has mentored and inspired thousands of young players, led community programs with schools and charities, and served as a long-time ambassador for MSWA. The Josh Kennedy Foundation, which he founded, provides scholarships and grants to young athletes excelling in their sport, with nine children currently benefiting.

Josh’s farewell at Optus Stadium in 2022, which attracted 50,000 people, was an emotional occasion that demonstrated his incredible impact on both the AFL and WA community. Shirts picturing his face were so popular they sold out at the West Coast Eagles merchandise store, and his team-mates filled an entire double page spread of The West Australian with messages about his positive impact on their careers and the club. Josh’s continuous success over 15 AFL seasons makes him one of the West Coast Eagles’ most elite players. But his inspiring example extends well beyond the football field. When Josh’s hometown of Northampton was hit by Tropical Cyclone Seroja in 2021, he helped to fundraise $180,000 for support and relief efforts and visited his hometown to deliver positive energy and support.

Brad Ness OAM

Brad Ness OAM is a Paralympic champion and an admired advocate for para-sport. After losing his leg in a workplace accident at the age of 18, Brad refused to let any obstacles hold him back. Dedicating himself to the sport of wheelchair basketball, Brad was eventually awarded a scholarship to play in the USA and went on to represent Australia in five Paralympic Games, winning a gold medal and two silver medals.

As current Head Coach of the WAIS Wheelchair Basketball Program, Brad is sharing his knowledge and experience with the next generation of athletes. He is a respected and supportive leader who prioritises the well-being of his players both on and off the court. Under his guidance, a record number of WA wheelchair basketball players made the national team in 2022.

Off-court, Brad is a vocal advocate for para-sport, working tirelessly to promote the implementation of programs and encouraging young people with disabilities to participate in physical activity. He has organised try-out days for a variety of para-sports and is a passionate public speaker, inspiring others to believe in themselves.

As an award nominee Brad’s sporting achievements are most impressive, however it’s his ongoing advocacy for para-sport and young people with disabilities that sets him apart. As a coach and mentor, Brad has had a profound impact on the lives of countless individuals, helping them to broaden their skill sets and achieve success.

Major Supporters

Celebrate WA wish to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land we meet on for all WA Day festivities. We wish to acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this State. Paying our respects to Elders past, present, and emerging.

Award Sponsors

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