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Local aboriginal artists upskill through unique new course at TAFE NSW Katoomba

TAFE NSW Katoomba

Local aboriginal artists upskill through unique new course at TAFE NSW Katoomba

Leanne Jones and Councillor Tony Bleasdale, OAM at the opening of the Blacktown City Art Prize 2022/2023

As demand for Aboriginal art continues to climb, a new course at TAFE NSW Katoomba is helping local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists turn their passion for creativity into successful careers.

According to the Productivity Commission, the market for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visual arts and crafts shows no signs of slowing down, with total sales exceeding $250 million annually.

TAFE NSW teacher and Aboriginal artist Leanne Tobin said the Certificate II in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Cultural Arts, which was offered for the first time at TAFE NSW Katoomba in 2021, is very popular with enrolments growing.

“Aboriginal art is widely sought after, and demand is growing in Australia and internationally. At the same time, COVID provided an opportunity for lots of people to explore new endeavours and prioritise creative pursuits – so this course came at the perfect time for our students,” Ms Tobin said.

“The course provides students with a deeper understanding of their own cultural identity, along with the tools to reflect their identity across a variety of mediums.

“Importantly, students create their own portfolio of work and have the chance to participate in community art projects throughout the course, giving them the confidence and skills required to potentially pursue a career in the arts industry. They can also progress to the Certificate III or IV to develop their skills even further.”

Dharug woman and Kurrajong Heights local Leanne Jones has always had a passion for art and enrolled in the Certificate to learn more about herself and her roots. Since completing the course, she has noticed an uptick in artwork sales and commissions.

Ms Jones was recently awarded the Aboriginal Artist Prize, as part of the 2022/23 Blacktown City Art Prize, for her artwork Dinawan Ngarraarry - Emu Hunt.

“I remember at 6 years of age when I was asked, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ I answered, ‘an artist’. Art has always been a passion of mine and a way for me to escape. When my dad, who was a Wiradjuri man, died when I was young, I turned to watercolour painting to express what I was going through,” Ms Jones said.

“I’ve worked in advertising and as a teacher, but I’ve always been drawn to art. I got to a point where I wanted to learn more about myself and learn stories and put that on paper. My work focuses on storytelling and landscapes before colonisation.

“Having a teacher like Leanne, who is a successful artist herself, has been invaluable. Throughout the course, we were given opportunities to get our work out there through exhibitions, and to sell our work. I’ve really enjoyed learning among other artists and being immersed in art.

“When I found out I won the Aboriginal Artist Prize, I was shocked, and to have Council acquire the painting for Council Chambers is incredible.

“I’ve noticed a lot of people are interested in Aboriginal artwork, and I’m receiving more enquiries about what my art means now. I think people are becoming more aware of what’s been missing from the conversation, and I’m looking forward to continuing to build on that conversation through my art.”

Media contact: Emma Hughes, Communications Specialist, 0409 618 291,