NINE students recently graduated from a one-off Diploma of Aboriginal Graphic Design have gained a unique set of skills for their professional lives.
Anthony Proberts, of Goonellabah, was already a painter when he started the course.
"I can now bring images and designs into digital media, and apply it to textiles, carpeting and children's books", Mr Proberts said.
For Eric Ferguson, of Lismore, the graphic design skills gained during the diploma course were complementary to a more personal process.
Mr Ferguson suffered a stroke in 2008 that affected his speech and mobility.
"I had to learn how to draw and speak again. I used to run artistic workshops at schools for the past six years and now I am starting to do it again, as the course has helped me to regain my confidence in public speaking," he said.
Mr Ferguson may come across as a shy person to start with, but his eyes brighten up and his speech does not vacillate when he talks about his art and his culture.
"I have a job at Wollongbar TAFE doing some cultural work. My goal was to start my own business and this course gives me the paperwork to back myself up."
Tyler Wortley, of Goonellabah, said his drawing abilities have improved after completing the Diploma course.
"The teachers have been a huge support for us, aligning jobs for us and mentoring us personally" he said.
The main skills all three artists have gained are the ability to negotiate the balance between developing commercially successful products and treating their culture appropriately and with respect.
"The sensitivity of some material generally means they are not for publication or distribution. We have used some traditional motifs on our work. For some projects that became very public, such as the bus in Lismore and the taxis in Casino, we asked the elders about the correct use of the totems," Anthony Proberts said.
Some of their work is featured in The Last Draw, the exhibition by the Art Department at Lismore TAFE open until tomorrow (Friday November 30) at the Space Gallery, Drill Hall, Lismore TAFE Campus in Conway St.
All three graduates said they were sad about the course not being offered by Lismore TAFE next year due to state government funding cuts.