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Celebrity Families

Meet Bill Shorten's first wife Deborah Beale

Years before Chloe, there was Debbie.

By Rebecca Sullivan
Australians are well acquainted with Bill Shorten and the woman who could become the next First Lady of Australia, his wife Chloe Shorten.
But what you might not know is years before the couple met, Bill was actually married to a completely different woman.
The Opposition Leader and his first wife Deborah Beale were married in 2000, well before he entered politics.
Deborah is the daughter of Melbourne billionaire and former Liberal MP Julian Beale.
Back then, Bill was the national secretary of the Australian Worker's Union and in 2007 he was elected as the Labor MP for Maribyrnong.
Bill and Deborah never had any children together, but by all accounts enjoyed a happy, loving marriage.
In fact, during his maiden speech when elected to parliament in February 2008, Bill made a special mention to his wife.
"Above all others - and I can say this on Valentine's Day - I thank my wife, Deb Beale, an endlessly intelligent, supportive and loving woman," he said.
"I knew this instantly from my first outing, when she agreed to visit a picket line with me."
Bill and his first wife Debbie. (Image: Twitter)
But in 2007, Bill rekindled his friendship with the then Chloe Bryce.
The pair had first met back when Bill was the head of the AWU and they were both scheduled to speak at a resources industry conference.
"He was the headline act," Chloe wrote in her book Take Heart: A Story For Modern Stepfamilies, "and I was off-off-Broadway, in a steering group."
When Chloe met Bill, she was "in the slow and difficult process of separation from my first husband, and it was a very stressful time for my family".
But a few years later in 2007, with enough water under the bridge, Bill attended a dinner at the then Queensland Governor Quentin Bryce's residence in Brisbane.
It was there that he reconnected with Mrs Bryce's daughter and the pair became friends.
According to reports in The Sunday Telegraph in 2008, Bill soon ended his marriage with Debbie and it was announced that he and Chloe were dating.
While neither Bill nor Debbie have gone on the record to discuss exactly what happened, Labor sources told The Telegraph that Bill separated from Deborah after he told her at an AFL game that he didn't "think" he "wanted to be married any more".
The source said Deborah was "totally shocked" by the split.
Bill and Chloe Shorten share a sweet moment, as Bill holds the couple's daughter Clementine. (Image: Getty)
In 2009, Chloe and Bill announced their engagement and just a few months later they announced they were expecting their first child together.
A pregnant Chloe married her new man in a beautiful Melbourne ceremony that attracted a huge amount of media attention, with helicopters hovering overhead and a strong police presence.
When contacted for comment by the Sunday papers to ask for her opinion, Debbie said, "You're tempting me," before declining to comment.
However friends of Bill's first wife said it was "interesting that Mr Shorten and Ms Bryce are expecting a baby, while both remain married to other people".
It's understood that Bill and Deborah were separated and awaiting the finalisation of their divorce at the time.
Prior to meeting Bill, Chloe was also married. She and her former husband, Brisbane architect Roger Parkin, have two children together, Georgette and Rupert.
Now Chloe and Bill have a daughter of their own, Clementine, who joins her half-siblings to create a wonderfully blended Shorten family.
The Shortens have been open about the challenges that come with such a family.
The couple underwent marriage counselling every two weeks at the beginning of their relationship and established clear boundaries with Chloe's children.
Speaking to The Australian Women's Weekly in 2017, Bill said he was acutely aware that Chloe's kids Rupert and Georgette had a father, and Bill's role was to help parent them, not replace their dad.
"For the older two, they call me Bill," he said
"But the little one goes from calling you 'Daddy' to 'Bill' and she naturally started doing that," Chloe said.

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