ROADSIDE tributes are an important step for families processing an unexpected death, says a Charles Sturt lecturer.
Her comments come as Wagga council releases its draft plan to place restrictions on roadside memorials in the city.
Under the draft policy, the council will need to be notified with a proposal explaining the memorial type, materials, location, an installation date and safety considerations for visitors. Any breach will see the memorial removed or relocated after the council contacts its owners.
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Sue Callander, who specialises in the subject of grief, loss and change, said families will often visit the site of the tragedy to mourn and make sense of the death. She said any road-related death will come as a shock to families because it is comes out of nowhere.
"Memorials are not about accepting the death, but part of it is meaning-making and moving on with the person who has died. They help to assist families ... because often they are tragic losses, sudden and unexpected," she said.
Although some people will use a memorial to process grief, she said it does not work for everyone and others will find different ways to work through tragedy.
For example, she said the death of five young men in 2001 after a vehicle-train crash on the Olympic Highway near Gerogery led to their families advocating for an overpass to be built, making the rail crossing safer. The bridge was named Five Mates Crossing in memory of the teenagers who died in the accident.
Regardless of the way people decide to cope with their grief, Ms Callander said the council and community needs to be "careful and respectful" towards those suffering from loss.
"We can't expect a one-size-fits-all in the community," she said.
The council's proposed rules indicate that tributes must not be placed on roads carrying an average of more than 1000 vehicles a day, on sharp bends or on trees.
They must also comply with size restrictions and be built with materials that will not cause injury if struck by a vehicle.
Ms Callander understands the call for regulations, but suggests the council could supply a suitable plaque for those grieving families who wish to have one erected. She said the tribute will then adhere to the requirements.
"You get people reacting in different ways and sometimes it is useful and other not so much," she said. "Maybe it's about meeting people in the middle and having something that can be put up in memory that the council agrees to."
Council has invited the community to lodge submissions on its draft policy until November 26.