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A unique course giving Indigenous locals an opportunity to build headstones for loved ones in unmarked graves has been offered by TAFE NSW in Peak Hill.
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. In Peak Hill, families have been unable to source the industry experts locally to complete headstone.
The eight-week Statement of Attainment IConnect course was delivered in the community, and saw Indigenous students work together to complete a dozen headstones in Peak Hill for loved ones and local Elders.
Peak Hill local, Torin Hando completed the course, making a headstone for his late father, and said he learnt valuable skills.
“We learnt a lot about Indigenous art and culture, and the meanings of the symbols,” he said.
“It was meaningful to be able to make a headstone myself for my father who I lost three years ago. It was an emotional experience, but to see the end product was pretty great.”
Torin’s mother also completed the course, creating a headstone for her daughter, and Torin’s sister.
TAFE NSW Aboriginal Education and Engagement Coordinator Katie Turner said the course involves family research and discussion, developing arts practice 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,” she said
“It was quite an emotional course, especially getting to the end when we placed the memorial tiles on the headstones. It brought some sort of closure and peace to people knowing they could finally put something in the resting place of their loved ones.”
Ms Turner said there was already more people interested in completing the course in the future.
“The goal is to train the next generation of headstone makers in these communities. Having a headstone maker trained in these communities would create some independence for them, to carry on their traditional sorry business and help them maintain their culture,” she said.
For more detail on TAFE NSW courses, face-to-face or online, visit www.tafensw.com.au or call 131 601.