One woman bringing life to funeral industry
ALTHOUGH there have always been women in the funeral industry, there are aspects of the job that have long been a male domain. However, funeral director Sharon Ross from Clarence Valley Funerals is challenging this social norm:
I'VE ALWAYS BEEN INTERESTED, EVER SINCE I WAS A YOUNG GIRL
When I was a young girl, my grandmother used to live around the corner from a funeral home, that's when I decided, I'd like to look after people's loved ones and support their families. Years later, I was going out with a guy whose friend worked at a funeral home as a coffin trimmer. I asked if there was a chance that I could possibly see if I'd be able to do this sort of job. After obtaining permission from the owner, on the way over I thought, I'm either going to be on the floor or I'm going to be alright. As it worked out, I was more than alright; I was quite interested and asked a lot of questions. I definitely made an impression, because before I'd even set foot in the door at home, the phone was ringing and I was asked to start working at the funeral parlour immediately. The rest is history.
I'M AN ALL-ROUNDER FUNERAL DIRECTOR
I've been very lucky to have gained experience in all aspects of the funeral business. When I started at Clarence Valley Funerals, Frank Summers owned the business at the time and first employed me as a casual mortician, where they would call me when there was work to do. However, after about two weeks into the job, the lady that was working as the full time Funeral Director went on holidays and never came back, so I was offered that position too. My role includes everything from administration in the front office to working in the mortuary, arranging and conducting funerals and even washing and maintaining the funeral cars.
ONE OF MY FIRST INCIDENTS WAS ATTENDING AN ACCIDENT ON THE M5
The place I worked for at the time were contractors for the Police, meaning we would go out to a location that involved Police and transfer the deceased to the nearest Hospital. Unfortunately, a semi-trailer had gone up the back of a car and the gas cylinder in the back had exploded on impact. It was quite a complicated scene because of what had happened. When you work for the police, you see unpleasant things and it's not something you can openly talk about.
WHEN PEOPLE ASK ME WHAT I DO, I TELL THEM I'M A MORTICIAN
They always respond with 'oh you do all the makeup with the dead people' and I tell them, yes, I prepare them for their final journey. I have learnt to be very careful with what I say, some people want to know more and with others, it ends the conversation.
THE MOST EXTRAVAGANT ITEM WAS A WEDDING DRESS
The most extravagant item of clothing that I've dressed someone in has been a full wedding gown. It was difficult to do because it was a massive dress with tulle, there were so many layers, followed by the veil. The weirdest thing I've dressed someone in was a G-string, covered with a bed coat. We receive many requests for special items of clothing, hair and makeup. Every funeral is unique and nothing is ever out of the question.
WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY CAN BE MORE EMPATHETIC
They can be more sympathetic and have more attention to detail, mainly when it comes to mortuary care, where you prepare the person for their final journey. There are many ladies in this town that are interested in working in the Funeral Industry and I would highly recommend this occupation. There aren't many limitations for women in this industry, I'm supplied with a lifting device to carry out my job and I'm quite the handy-woman if I must say so myself.
WHAT WE DO IS A VERY SPECIAL JOB
We're looking after everybody's most priceless possession, be it their parent, grandparent, sibling or child. To find someone who has the heart and respect to work in this industry is very important. I've been working in this industry for 27 years this year and I wouldn't change it for quids.