First Nations heritage and digital era unite at symposium
  • Thursday 29 April 2021
Virtual Reality Experience

Our First Nations heritage met our digital world head-on today (April 29), with the launch of a brand new virtual reality experience and app, which will transport users to a day before European settlement at Bankfoot House.

The unique immersive and interactive experiences were launched today at the Bankfoot House Heritage Precinct, during Sunshine Coast Council’s 2021 Heritage Symposium.

The symposium brought together experts from across a range of sectors to explore the relationship between the environment, sustainability, heritage and the built environment, making it the perfect launchpad for the digital experience.

First Nations digital platform developer Brett Leavy of Bilbie Virtual Studios said the experience area covered Mt Tunbubudla in the south to Mt Coochin in the north and matched local topography and flora and fauna species from pre-settlement times.

“The participant’s First Nations character runs through bush and hunts for food. Returning to camp they can collect spears, tend campfires and engage in cultural activities,” Mr Leavy said.

“What sets this project apart from other technology is the sharing of knowledge from animated Elders, with voices of Kabi Kabi traditional custodians.

“As participants listen, they are able to reflect on First Nations cultural practices and understand why the Glass House Mountains region is so important to Kabi Kabi and Jinibara descendants.”

Cultural Heritage Coordinator Peter Connell said Bankfoot House was chosen as the location for this virtual experience as it sat alongside an ancient pathway, now called Old Gympie Road, which for tens of thousands of years was used by First Nations peoples.

“This project, which took over a year to create is a great example of how digital technologies can provide a way to interpret, celebrate and increase the awareness of Sunshine Coast heritage,” Mr Connell said.

“Council developed the project in collaboration with Bilbie Virtual Studios who undertook extensive consultation with Kabi Kabi and Jinibara First Nations representatives.

“For visitors and students, this experience increases their understanding of First Nations cultural and sustainable practices and is the epitome of bringing heritage to life.

“Visitors not only experience, but interact with the same landscape environment as our First Nations Peoples.”

The free experiences add more offerings to the Bankfoot House Heritage Precinct, which already makes for an all-round family day out.

The precinct is a free experience, open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am – 3pm. Visitors can take tours of the heritage listed house, experience ‘The Shed’ restoration project, view seasonal exhibitions in the Mary Grigor interpretive centre and use of the picturesque grounds for picnics and to play the big games available from the centre.

Community Portfolio Councillor Rick Baberowski said the Heritage Symposium and the exciting new digital experiences were just some of the projects made possible by the Sunshine Coast Heritage Levy.

“Our Heritage Levy enables us to protect our special places, buildings and sites, and find new ways to engage with our regions history and truly celebrate and raise awareness of the unique intersections of history and culture on the Sunshine Coast,” Cr Baberowski said.

A live stream of the Heritage Symposium is available on council’s Facebook page.

Heritage Symposium guest speakers included:

  • Erin Johnston - Sunshine Coast Design; designing with place in mind
  • Hope O’Chin - Sustainability; A Kabi Kabi perspective
  • Chris Klar - Bankfoot House Shed and Mike Ahern Centre - Common Environmental and Sustainability Issues
  • Lyndon Davis - Sustainability of all natural resources.Mia Hacker – First Nations VR - Bilbie Virtual Studios
  • Sharon Stott - Looking backwards, thinking forwards; a historical perspective on sustainable living and today’s lifestyle choices.
  • Beverley Hand - Bunya Dreaming 14 years on; the trials and tribulations of trying to revive cultural traditions in a contemporary way.

Further details about the Virtual Reality experience and Bankfoot House can be found on council’s heritage website