Brett Leavy’s virtual time machine

Brett uses modern immersive technologies to recreate the Australia of his ancestors, including developing package called Virtual Songlines, which uses a game-like interface to create an ‘arts, culture, language and knowledge based experience’.

Brett Leavy calls himself a ‘Virtual Heritage Jedi’. A descendant of the Kooma people of Western Queensland, Brett has spent his career dedicated to seeking innovative ways to preserve and present Indigenous arts, language and culture using new technologies.

“I think technology is the key. Our people are inventors and we invent to make our lives easier and to do so with a respect of the land.”
 “My task is to bring new technologies to ancient cultures,” Brett explains.

Inspired by the possibilities of virtual reality (VR) and immersive gaming, Brett created Virtual Songlines. Virtual Songlines is a tool to developing, recording, preserving and presenting the knowledge passed down by the Traditional Owners.

Through the use of VR Brett seeks to recreate the Australia of his ancestors and embed the culture, language, artefacts and community into 3D VR experiences.

“Each Virtual Songlines project represents a particular historical 3D landscape. We strive with each interactive that we make, to recreate the songlines authentically and model engaging animated characters, incorporate real soundscapes and add challenges for the player to overcome so they master their environment in accord with local customs and in adherence to the wisdom of the Elders,” he said.

Through the game like interface the user simulates the life of the Indigenous people and requires players to hunt, gather and explore.

Brett has built and demonstrated a number of virtual worlds based upon historical and geographical reference materials, with the most recent being Virtual Butchulla.

His original and most recognised exhibit ‘Sydney Cove’ was on show at Customs House in Circular Quay. The exhibit gave the user a virtual experience of how Sydney Cove appeared before the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788.

His next opportunity is an installation to demonstrate his work at the National Museum of Australia to represent the East Coast of Australia at the time before the arrival of Captain Cook.