Content warning: This story contains details some readers may find distressing.
Her passion for her people has led Sharon Todd to become Western Australia’s first female Indigenous funeral director.
Based in Boorloo, the proud Kariyarra Noongar woman facilitated a funeral for her nephew in 2020, and the feedback set her on the path to creating her business — Towards the Dreaming.
“Towards the Dreaming, for me, is really about helping people towards the Dreaming,” she said.
“That last journey towards the Dreamtime, that is what we say — we’ll see you in the Dreaming, or the Dreamtime.”
Towards the Dreaming is built on the love Ms Todd has for her community and supporting them through Sorry Business.
“I wanted to be a funeral director to help with that process, to help our mob and to really know what our mob need,” she said.
“It’s good to have someone that’s born into culture to be able to provide this service.”
Ms Todd said her move into the death industry “just feels so right”.
“We’re people that are very much about the gut feeling and that spirit inside. And when you know that’s right, it’s right,” she said.
“It’s knowing that you’re helping family. Sitting with families and planning the funeral . . . it’s going through all the steps together. Watching the kids run around, having them be a part of that journey.
“It’s what we should be doing, and it’s our total connection. From the land, back to the land. That whole circle of giving and looking after and nurturing. It’s all of that wrapped up.”
One of the best parts of Towards the Dreaming for Ms Todd is connecting with mob across WA.
“This makes me grow my family even more, with all the extended family I’m meeting,” she said.
“I’m not Sharon, I turn into Sis, or Aunty, or Nanna. It’s been so awesome.”
Ms Todd hopes her work can motivate more Aboriginal people into the industry
“I want to bring more people into the industry, into the death industry and the funeral industry, to make it more common so that our mob can do funerals for their own mob,” she said.
Ms Todd reflected on one of the most important funerals she has conducted — returning her father to Country.
“He was taken back to the land where he was born — he has been out there resting peacefully now for 16 years,” she said.
“It was beautiful, after having his funeral out there and seeing all the fires dotted along the river. Knowing that this is how our mob was all those years and years ago, this is what we did.
“This was normal and natural.”
Although taking small steps, Ms Todd has a strong vision for Towards the Dreaming.
“I want our own cool rooms and mortuary so that we can look after people and keep them close. So that we can really provide that wraparound love,” she said.
“To help families know that when they go to bed at night, that even though their person that they love is not there with them anymore, they are still being looked after in my care — in Towards the Dreaming’s care.”
Ms Todd is making her mark in the world, breaking the glass ceiling and giving back to mob.
“It’s a special industry. I feel honoured to be in it, I feel honoured to be working with these families,” she said.
“A death can extend trauma in families; I just want to try and help get through it.”
By Rachael Knowles