Billy Stockmans life began with tragedy. His mother and others of his family were killed in the 1928 Coniston Massacre some 280km s north of Alice Springs while he was sleeping in a coolamon under a bush where his mother had concealed him. Just one of only two survivors, Billy was consequently found and taken in by the family of perhaps Australia’s most famous artist, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, and raised as an adopted brother.
Billy worked as a stockman on Napperby Station, where he would sell carvings and boomerangs to U.S soldiers stationed nearby during WWII. In time, he began to paint designs on them. In the late 1960‘s, Billy moved to the desert settlement of Papunya, where he was present and part of the most profound moment in the Contemporary Indigenous Art Movement – with the encouragement of local school teacher Geoffery Bardon, Billy helped paint the Honey Ant Dreaming mural on the wall of the Papunya school with Kaapa Mbitjana Tjampitjinpa, Long Jack Phillipus and other senior members of the community.
Although the painting was tragically over-painted long since, it is considered the beginning of the acrylic movement. Billy Stockman was a leader amongst his people and was actively involved as a campaigner for land rights and development of more equitable conditions for Indigenous people.