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Dignity for the dead: TAFE NSW program creating headstones for unmarked graves

TAFE NSW Macksville

Dignity for the dead: TAFE NSW program creating headstones for unmarked graves

A unique course giving Indigenous locals an opportunity to build headstones for loved ones in unmarked graves has been offered at TAFE NSW Macksville.

Historically, many Indigenous people were buried in unmarked graves or with simple grave markings that have weathered over time and are now hard to read.

The eight-week ‘Statement of Attainment: 3D Creative Skill Set’ course is providing 15 Indigenous students from Nambucca, Macksville and Bowraville the opportunity to create a headstone for a loved one and gain skills such as designing and producing 3D mosaics and directing the creation of digital artwork.

Bowraville local Denise Buchanan is undertaking the course and said it has been a great opportunity to be able to commemorate her late sister and brother in a creative and meaningful way.

"My sister passed away two years ago, which was a huge shock, and my brother passed two weeks after that. I wanted to do this for them – it's what they would’ve wanted," she said.

"I’ve always loved art – it's my passion and by learning new techniques including mosaicking, I’ve been able to create my own design in their memory. 

“The course has also helped me to broaden my skills and gain more work in the field. I’ve been getting new contracts here and there which is great," Ms Buchanan said. 

Lorrae O’Brien, Head Teacher of Creative and Design Ideation at TAFE NSW said the course involves family research and discussion, developing arts practice in the mosaic medium and gathering relevant materials and resources to plan the creative work.

“Students are encouraged to practice creative skills and explore culture within their local community. 

“It’s such an important and sensitive process and creating a lasting tribute for their loved ones enables a sense of closure for a lot of families and the wider Aboriginal Community." 

For more detail on TAFE NSW courses, face-to-face or online, visit or call 131 601. 

Media contact: Emma Woodward, TAFE NSW R/Media and Communications Business Partner, 0409 618 291,