Generous Hearts

Carmel Nicholson

Aboriginal Artist, 1930-2005

Cultural Tours, Small Group Travel, Small Group Tours, Judith Salmon Travel, Salmon Plus, World Art Tours“Carmel Marie Nicholson was born in 1930 at Ray Station near Quilpie in south-west Queensland. She was the daughter of Rosie Dick, great-granddaughter of ‘Kangaroo’, leader of the Buntamurra people and sole survivor of a police massacre at Cameron’s Corner at the beginning of the 20th century. She was also the daughter of English stock man, David Nicholson.

For the first six years of her life, Carmel lived with her mother at Ray Station where Rosie worked for the Tully family.Carmel remembered going fishing and picking wild  flowers along the creek with her mother and in later years these memories would inspire an output of joyous paintings that are her legacy to a nation still in need of true reconciliation.

At six years of age Carmel was forcibly removed from her mother and taken to Cherbourg Mission. Rosie followed Carmel and both mother and daughter remained at Cherbourg until they were finally released into the care of the Tullys. In a statement made by Carmel at a ceremony organised by the Good Shepherd Sisters at Ashfield on National Sorry Day 1998, she refers to Cherbourg as ‘a prison’ and recalls being frightened of the dark, having sores all over her body and having her head shaved.

By the time Carmel and Rosie were released from Cherbourg, Carmel was seven years old. However, the Queensland Government’s policy of removing children of black and white descent had not altered, so when Rosie returned to Ray Station, Carmel was placed firstly in the care of the Carmelites at Auchenflower and then with the Good Shepherd Sisters at their convent in Mitchelton. Carmel would spend the next fifty-six years at Mitchelton.

During these years Carmel received a basic education and demonstrated remarkable talents for singing and playing the violin. She was taught music by teachers from the Conservatorium, sang in the Brisbane City Choir and performed in amateur theatrical productions. At the age of fourteen she began working in the commercial laundry and later took over management of the Home for Girls’ kitchen. When the Home closed, Carmel moved into a sponsored house with friends from the convent where she remained till she moved to Sydney in 1992.

Unlike many members of the Stolen Generation, Carmel maintained some contact with her mother. Once every couple of years Rosie would visit Carmel at the convent and Carmel wrote to her mother every month. On rare occasions Carmel received small packages of wild flowers that Rosie picked after the rains at Quilpie. These flowers would dry out and wilt on their way to Mitchelton, but they were Carmel’s precious lifeline to her mother and when she began painting, Quilpie wild flowers became a recurring metaphor for the love between mother and daughter.

In 1996 Carmel attended the Eora Aboriginal Art College in Chippendale and the next year was awarded a grant from the Australia Council for the Arts to develop her first exhibition. In preparation for this exhibition,Carmel travelled to her birth country at Quilpie – her first visit since being taken away at the age of six. This experience was a highly emotional one for Carmel and for some time afterwards she was unable to paint at all.

Carmel’s return to Quilpie coincided with a period of heavy rain – the country was a mass of wild flowers, like those she remembered picking with Rosie and those her mother had sent her at the convent. When Carmel began painting again she filled her boards and canvases with Quilpie wildflowers. In response to her first exhibition, Rosie’s Story in 1998Ken Watson, then a curator at the Art Gallery of NSW, wrote, Carmel uses her paint both sensuously and confidently. She has a direct and literal use of visual imagery which is obviously influenced by some of Australia’s greatest desert painters.

Rosie’s Story established Carmel as a serious artist and was followed by two equally successful exhibitions: Buntamurra Dreaming in 2000 and Eternal Echoes in 2002. By 2002 however, Carmel was suffering the effects of advanced dementia. For the Eternal Echoes exhibition, however, Carmel produced a series of beautiful and joyous paintings that were so full of life the wildflowers appeared to dance on the surface of the canvases. This was Carmel’s artistic triumph. The exhibition was officially opened by the Governor of NSW, Professor Marie Bashir and during the course of the exhibition Carmel was interviewed by Rachael Kohn for The Spirit of Things.

In 1999 Carmel was interviewed for the Bringing Them Home Oral History Project. Her interview and her painting Eternal Echoes are both featured in the final publication. In 2003, the North Sydney Council invited Carmel to exhibit her paintings in the Guringai Festival, A Celebration of Aboriginal Culture and Heritage; the Council has subsequently acquired two of Carmel’s paintings for their civic art collection. It meant a great deal to Carmel that she was accepted as an Aboriginal woman whose life experiences were being validated and considered valuable.

Carmel’s cheerful, loving nature and her positive disposition meant that in life she was surrounded by friends who loved her dearly and now miss her terribly. To us, her achievements seem outstanding, but Carmel was a woman of deep and intuitive wisdom. On the occasion of the opening of her last exhibition, I said to Carmel, How do you feel? To which she replied, I’m happy Judith, I have everything I want.

Carmel passed away on 14 October 2005. Her life was celebrated by her sister Barbara Bond, her large network of close friends and family, and Father Richard Pascoe at the Holy Cross Church in Woolawin on 21 October. As was her wish, she rests with her mother at the Pinaroo cemetery in Brisbane”.

Judith Salmon (as printed in Sydney Morning Herald)



Carmel Nicholson Outback Music Scholarship

For more information, please click Generous Hearts on menu bar above

Our next Music Scholarship Fund Raiser will be a Dinner on 1 October, International Music Day 2014.

If you would like to receive information and/or an invitation, please email:

Carmel Nicholson Outback Music Scholarship

The Outback Music Scholarship was set up in February 2011 on the evening we closed Salmon Galleries in McMahons Point. Our main purpose was to fund three years of piano lessons for ‘Ruby’, an Aboriginal girl in Year 4 at St Joseph’s Primary School in Walgett. Our secondary purpose was to honour the memory of Aboriginal artist, Carmel Nicholson, whose personality and art was loved and admired by our art gallery community.

With the generous and continuing support of Friends of Salmon Galleries and Judith Salmon Travel, the Outback Music Scholarship has benefited a number of primary age students at St Joesph’s School in Walgett, the Lightning Ridge Central School and Children of the Air.

The Scholarship has funded piano lessons for some and singing lessons for others. It has meant that students have received special coaching in 2013 and 2014 for their performances at the Narrabri Eisteddfod and the Walgett Community Singing Competition.

As well as being a visual artist, Carmel had a beautiful singing voice and played the violin. I am certain she would be very happy to know that her name is associated with a scholarship that promotes the participation of young children in the joy and social benefits that flow from engagement in a variety of music experiences.


Carmel’s paintings had a pronounced musicality about them – her style was expressive and exuberant, her signature wild flowers seem to dance over her canvases.

Here are a couple of examples of Carmel’s paintings:

Cultural Tours, Small Group Travel, Small Group Tours, Judith Salmon Travel, Salmon Plus, World Art Tours 

Scroll down this page for current and previous Annual Reports for the Outback Music Scholarship. Donations to this charity are NOT tax deductible, but ALL money raised is spent on providing enriching music experiences for the children of  St Joseph’s Primary School in Walgett and Children of the Air.

Our next Music Scholarship Fund Raiser will be a Dinner on 1 October, International Music Day 2014.

If you would like to receive information and an invitation, please email:



Thank you to all the ‘generous hearts’ who answered our call for help for the Cambodian high school girls sponsored by the Bamboo Foundation in Siem Reap. On 20/12/2013 we transferred $US 5,495.10 into the Foundation account. Special thanks to Annette & Bob Riches who raised $A3,080 of that amount. To all the people who attended the Christmas buying event, your generous support enabled the Foundation to purchase materials for the repair of computers, the building of a library, construction of a new well and drainage system and a chook pen at the girls’ accommodation house, thank you again!



Thanks to Bob, a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table, the MDRT Foundation has made a one-off grant of $US 3,500 to our “Young Womens Leaders’ Project”.  The MDRT is the Premier Association of Life Insurance Agents and Financial Professionals and is based in the USA. Further information about the MDRT Foundation can be found at

Our thanks also go to Nick and Natalie Summerville who recently raised $A1,500 for the continuing care and education of the girls in Siem Reap.


In December 2013 George and Eliot Salmon travelled to Siem Reap as volunteers with the BambooShoot Foundation. They spent a month working on projects with Sophal Sea, the Foundation’s Director. During the day, they repaired the hostel’s computers, installed internet connections, built book shelves for a library, installed a new well a

nd drainage system in the outdoor compound, built fences, compost heaps and

a chicken coop. In their spare time, they taught chemistry to senior students at Angkor High School, English, chemistry and IT to the girls sponsored by the BombooShoot Foundation. They were very busy. We, the Friends of BambooShoot, thank them most sincerely!

The Young Women Leaders’ Project 2013-2014 was made possible by the financial support of: Joan and Anne Salmon, John Salmon, Danny Salmon, Kathleen Gilbert and Terry and Judith Salmon.








View photos from George & Eliot’s time in Siem Reap on Main Menu:
Click: Tour Images

 Carmel Nicholson Outback Music Scholarship Report * 2013
Dear Friends,

2013 was a very exciting year for the Carmel Nicholson Outback Music Scholarship. Thank you firstly, for your very generous financial support – once again we have provided music tuition and other related opportunities for children who would otherwise not have enjoyed these enriching experiences. Secondly, special thanks to those Scholarship supporters who travelled out west to meet the children and attend the Walgett Community Festival in August. More about that later.

Scholarship recipients in 2013 were Thomas Ellis from Lightning Ridge Central School

and Ruby Haley from St Joseph’s Primary School in Walgett. Selection for these scholarships is based on financial need and the enthusiasm of the applicants with special consideration given to Indigenous children.

In 2013, Scholarship funds also assisted the choirs from both schools attend the Narrabri Eisteddfod where the children won a number of prizes in the Small Schools Choir, Vocal Solo and Piano Solo sections. The Walgett Choir won 1st Prize and Thomas Ellis, 1st Vocal Soloist. Congratulations to all the children who participated and to their teacher, Mrs Marilyn Collins who prepared them so proficiently.

Thanks also to Marilyn for securing a NSW Government Grant to bring a specialist singing teacher to Walgett and Lightning Ridge for solo and small group tuition for children entering the Walgett Voice Competition during the Walgett Community Festival in August. This grant supplemented Marilyn’s training of the choirs and was a great confidence boost for the children. Ms Kerryn Lockhart, a trained opera singer and teacher from Melbourne, conducted workshops at the Lightning Ridge Bowling Club and Central School, and St Joseph’s Primary School in Walgett.

In August a group of twenty-five ‘Scholarship Friends’ travelled out west to meet the children and attend the Walgett Community Festival. It was an inspiring, action packed and thoroughly enjoyable experience for all of us – sincere thanks to all the locals who made us feel so welcome and to Marilyn for inviting us to her home for lunch on our last day. Special thanks to Kate Smeaton who donated a copy of the Hope Education Kit to both of the schools we visited. This will be a most valuable teaching resource as the children begin thinking about their possibilities for their future careers.

More photos from our trip are available on             Tour Images on the main menu.


2014 promises to be another very productive year for the Outback Scholarship. The following children are participating in the Piano Program: Peggy Sullivan & Mary McGrath, on full scholarships; Oliver Furnell, a half scholarship and Kiana Kennedy, a quarter scholarship.

Seventeen (17) children are entered in the Piano and Singing sections of the Narrabri Eisteddfod and the Scholarship Fund is again sponsoring Mr Richard Morphew to travel to Walgett in May to prepare the entrants for these events.

News of former Scholarship recipients:

Ruby Haley is in Year 7 in Toowoomba and is settling in very well.

Mack Holz from Lightning Ridge is at boarding school in Sydney and is very happy.

Lena-Jade, also at school in Sydney, now in Year 8, is happy and getting excellent marks in music appreciation.

Lilly Ricardo, Year 7 in Sydney, has been selected to travel overseas in an opera, having been introduced to opera by Marilyn’s marvellous feats in bringing opera performances to the Walgett Showground!

 We need your continued support, please!

Weekly piano lessons cost $20 per scholarship student. Any and all contributions are most gratefully accepted. 

Donations to the Carmel Nicholson Outback Music  Scholarship are administered by Terry Salmon. Amounts for 2014 can be deposited into the following CBA account:… 


Please tag your deposit: Carmel/Your Surname, then send Terry a quick email with your full name and postal address, he will mail you a Trust Account Receipt:

 Thank you to all our Scholarship supporters!

 Judith & Terry Salmon




These girls are high school students in Siem Reap. They are sponsored by NGO2 Bamboo Shoot Foundation: that provides accommodation and leadership skills for young women who would otherwise leave school unskilled and unemployable at primary level. Nineteen girls will graduate this year and go on to higher education. Friends of Salmon Galleries have helped previously, these girls need our help again.

At the moment food is in very short supply. It costs $1.25 a day to feed one of these girls, $8.75 a week, $38.00 a month, $450 a year. 

Are you able to help?

All donations to NGO2 Bomboo Shoot Foundation are being managed by Terry Salmon.     A Salmon & Co Solicitors Trust Account receipt will be issued for every individual contribution. Bank details as follows:


Please tag your deposit: NGO2 + Your Surname. 

Then send Terry a quick email with your full name and postal address, he will mail you a Trust Account Receipt:

Thank you for your kind consideration,

Best wishes,


Judith Salmon Travel


The Carmel Nicholson Music Scholarship for Outback Kids is supported by the generous friends of Salmon Galleries and Salmon Plus.

Click to read the Music Scholarship Annual Report 2012.

Donations to the Scholarship Fund can be made directly: Please click here



The Children’s Education Foundation – Vietnam

In January 2011 our Heavenly Hoi An group visited a Children’s Home run by the Children’s Education Foundation, a Vietnamese NGO with connections to the Blue Dragon Organisation. The Children’s Home provides care, accommodation and counselling support for disadvantaged children and teenagers who would not otherwise be able to continue their education. In January our group made a cash donation and since returning to Australia we have undertaken to sponsor three children at the Home. Thank you to Mandy Kennedy for taking this initiative on our behalf.



Books for Bali Project

In October 2011 the group that travelled to Bali on the Salmon Galleries Ubud Writers & Readers Festival Tour took with us over 100 picture books to be distributed to children between the ages of 3-7 in remote areas of the island. The Books for Bali Project is a literacy program sponsored by Ketut and Anita Yuliarsa, owners of the Ganesha Bookshops in Bali. Our Tour group for 2012 will again support this wonderful initiative.