Art classes in Wingham for local veterans and returned service people

Local artists Ron Hindmarsh and Jillian Oliver will be guiding veterans in the art classes. Photo: submitted
Local artists Ron Hindmarsh and Jillian Oliver will be guiding veterans in the art classes. Photo: submitted

Using art as a therapuetic tool for veterans is becoming increasingly popular, and is known to assist in dealing with PTSD.

Tinonee artist, Ron Hindmarsh and Wingham’s 2017 Citizen of the Year, Jillian Oliver, who is also an artist, have started art classes for current and former Australian Defence Forces personnel.

Jillian is a former police officer who sustained a serious injury to her arm which later necessitated its amputation. She has used, and is still using, art as therapy.

“I found so much benefit from it, and I’d like someone else to benefit from it,” Jillian said.

“It’s something I find such peace from doing, because I get a lot of pain and I still have things I’m dealing with medically, and also not having a job that I love.”

Jillian has a special interest in the history of the military and supporting the defence forces. She first came up with the local art therapy for vets idea after seeing a picture on facebook of Australian forces in Afghanistan at a dawn service.

“It’s just a beautiful picture and I thought ‘i’ll give that a shot’ and I started painting it,” she said.

When it was finished she sent a picture of it to the page she saw the initial photograph on, and was immediately contacted by the officer in charge. Jillian ended up donating the painting to the unit in Afghanistan to raffle off, with the proceeds going to their chosen charity – an orphanage in Afghanistan. 

A Northern Territory MP visited Afghanistan and came back to Australia with a print of her painting, which is now hanging in his office in Canberra. As a result, Jillian was contacted by the chairman of the Australian National Veteran Arts Museum in Melbourne.

“They do a lot of stuff with returned soldiers with depression and PTSD. They run therapy sessions and art classes and they’re quite involved in finding ways to help people deal with injuries and mental illness,” Jillian said.

After talking to the museum, Jillian was keen to start local classes to help local veterans and ADF personnel, and approached painting buddy Ron Hindmarsh, who was more than happy to get involved.

Jillian and Ron are grateful to Reverend Brian Ford, who has donated the use of the St Matthews Anglican Church Hall in Wingham for the classes.

“He just bent over backwards to help us,” Jillian said.

The art classes are only for veterans or ADF personnel at this stage, but there is talk of later including emergency services personnel.

No artistic ability is required, and Jillian encourages those who do not think they are artistic to come along and try it anyway.

“Not everyone is artistic, but there are all different forms of art,” she said.

The art classes are held on Thursday mornings from 9am to 12pm every fortnight, with the next class on March 22. 

Classes are held at St Matthews Church Hall in Bent Street, Wingham, and the cost is $5 per class.

For more information call Ron Hindmarsh on 6553 1203.