Frederick William "Billy" Doolan Jnr (also known as Billy Doo, 1952) is an Australian Indigenous artist who lives in Townsville, Queensland but does most of his current artwork in Melbourne, Victoria.

He was featured in two 2011-2012 exhibitions, a one man show titled 'Between Sky and Sea" at the Italian Institute of Culture in Melbourne which ran from 28 October 2010 to 20 April 2012 and a major show which exhibited in Italy from the 11th February 2011 to the 28th of August 2011. It was held at MAN Museum, Nuoro, Sardinia and final attendance figures were 25,000. In addition some 2000 school children ranging from late primary school level to early secondary attended classes at the Museum to be taught some basic elements of Australian Aboriginal art and culture. Almost 90 Aboriginal artists from all over Australia were featured and over 300 items were exhibited making it the largest public showing of its type to be shown overseas. Twenty two of Billys' pieces were chosen for the exhibition which made him the largest single contributor. Curators in Australia were Maree Clarke from the Koori Heritage Trust and Amanda Reynolds and Giovanna Gotti, the senior curator for the Egyptian Art Museum in Turin.

Early life

Doolan's mother came from Gulf of Carpentaria country and his father, for whom he is named, from Central Queensland, Australia.

Doolan was born in 1952 on Palm Island, Queensland[4] which was the site of a penal settlement from 1918[5] and is one of the largest Aboriginal communities in Australia with Indigenous people making up 96.6% of the population (ABS, 2006). Bwgcolman is the name given to Aboriginals resettled on Palm Island but the young Doolan lived only a few years on the island before his family was evicted to the Australian mainland.[7]

Billy's father Frederick William, was a ringleader in the 1957 Palm Island Labourer's Strike. This political activity resulted in the family being removed from Palm Island to Townsville on the mainland coast where they settled in Happy Valley.[7]


The Dictionary of Australian Artists Online states that Doolan's works were showcased in 2001 exhibition "Gatherings", Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art from Queensland, Australia and that Doolan works are in synthetic polymer on linen. The exhibition was held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.[8] The book launched at the show and carrying the same title was written by Marion Demozay and published by Keearia Press, Southport, Queensland.

"Gatherings 11" again featured Doolans' works and was shown at The Queensland Art Gallery in 2006. The accompanying book of the same title was launched at the opening night. Author was Marion Demozay and publisher Keearia Press.

In 2009 the artist was a finalist in the 2009 Victorian Aboriginal Art Awards held at Boscia Gallery, Melbourne. The exhibition was supported by the Victorian Government and accompanied by a booklet featuring Billy's work.

The Dreamtime Catalogue published in February 2011 is an Italian edition and supports the travelling exhibition of the same title. 22 of Billys' pieces are featured in the exhibition and illustrated in the catalogue. Contributing authors are Maree Clarke, senior curator at The Koorie Heritage Trust, Amanda Reynolds, Dr Davide Sandrini, Giovanna Gotti, senior curator of the Turin Egyptian Museum and Hans Sip.

The Italian Institute of Culture in Melbourne held Billy Doolan's first major solo public exhibition titled Between Sea and Sky: Songs of a Voyage in 2010 with the paintings[3] '...the result of a cultural exchange project initiated by Melbourne-based Sicilian-born arts promoter Maria Sanciolo-Bell'.[4] All eight of Doolan's Sicilian themed paintings included in the IAI were painted between the George Wright Aboriginal Hostel in Melbourne and his Townsville home. The works presented a unique set of challenges for the artist who gained his inspiration from his trip to Sicily in 2009. He was mindful of presenting a sensitive and respectful rendering of Sicilian history and life and the project took over a year to complete.

The remaining seven works in the show were contributed by Hans Sip who is the artist's representative.[7] The Sicilian project led to the biggest non-commercial travelling exhibition of indigenous artwork to leave Australia as of 2011 initially titled "The Rainbow Serpent" and later renamed Dreamtime.[4] Doolan was one of 90 artists included in the $3 million exhibition and is its greatest contributor with 22 pieces out of the total of over 300 exhibits. More than 250 items were donated to the show by Hans Sip with the remainder donated by Adam Williams, another major private collector and 9 individual artists.[2]

An article titled 'A Mighty Heart Billy Doolan" was published by Essentials Magazine in their Autumn 2011 issue (no.20). It featured three of the paintings which were touring Italy at the time.

Italianicious Magazine published an article titled "Impressions of Sicily" in their November-December 2011 issue featuring works hanging at the "Between Sea and Sky" exhibition at the Italian Institute of Culture.