Virtual Warrane @ Wynyard


Project overview

The latest addition to the curated collection of cultural and heritage installations at Wynyard Station, Virtual Warrane @ Wynyard is an immersive journey through a virtual heritage landscape that depicts a day in the life of the Traditional Owners prior to European contact.

"We want everybody to realise that, before the bricks and mortar of our cities and regional towns, First Nations people called this place home and had called it home since time immemorial."
Brett Leavy, Digital Aboriginal

The video work journeys around Warrane, now known as Sydney Harbour, home of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. 

Particularly significant for commuters passing through Wynyard Station are scenes depicting the Aboriginal camp. Located on a ridge between Warrane and Tumbalong (Darling Harbour), this is Wynyard Park - the world on screen is the place under our own feet.

Informed by extensive research and brought to life with 3D visualisations and gaming technology, Virtual Warrane was created by Aboriginal digital artist, Brett Leavy and produced by Bilbie Virtual Labs with support from the Metro Local Aboriginal Land Council.

The work will be permanently screened at the entrance to Wynyard Walk.

More information about the Wynyard Walk project.

Artist Statement

Virtual Warrane @ Wynyard is a portal to the significant cultural places about Sydney as they were prior to January 26, 1788. Like a time machine, the work transports the viewer to the pre-contact Gadigal landscape and way of life, offering an insight and exploration into the communities, campsites, hunting grounds and significant places of the Traditional Owners. Using new technologies and gaming algorithms, Virtual Warrane @ Wynyard is a visual Acknowledgement of Country that respectfully reconstructs place from an Indigenous perspective and illustrates the Gadigal peoples’ deep-seated connection to their land.

The work is an immersive journey through a virtual heritage landscape that depicts a day in the life of the Traditional Owners. It begins with an Elder watching sunrise over the harbour, Warrane, home of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. This sacred body of water is celebrated as a place ritualised with meaning in the everyday lives of the Gadigal, including the landforms it created, the ecologies it sustained, and the traditional activities it supported, such as fishing, ceremony and song.

A ghost impression of the present-day city materialises onto the landscape – the Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay, the CBD skyline, and Sydney Harbour Bridge - and we recognise this place now called Sydney.

Virtual Warrane @ Wynyard represents culture but also preserves culture. It has been meticulously researched using oral histories, Dreamtime stories, knowledge of Traditional Owners, colonial maps and illustrations, diary accounts, historical artefacts, and archaeology reports. The works celebrates Gadigal culture, lore, language and connection to Country, and shares that culture with us all so that those who live, work and visit here may gain a great understanding of long and significant history of the place we now call Sydney.

More can be found in the full Artist Statement (PDF, 374.31 KB).

Artist Biography

Brett Leavy is a First Nations, Digital Aboriginal. He descends from the Kooma people whose traditional country is bordered by St George in the east, Cunnamulla in the west, north by the town of Mitchell and south to the QLD/NSW border.

Brett has dedicated his working life to cultural knowledge recording and the industry of communications. His digital work seeks to represent the arts, cultural stories, heritage, traditional knowledge and histories of First Nation people using new, immersive and interactive technologies.

For over three decades, he has researched how to "build a time machine" to take people back to places where the traditional knowledge of First Nations people originated. Guided by Traditional Owners, anthropologists, archaeologists, botanists and the interactive games industry, he is inspired to create entertaining and engaging systems to represent the interactions between first settlers and traditional peoples.

His Masters of Creative Industries covered the subject of Aboriginal Knowledge Management using 3D Immersive Technologies. This study explored ways to present arts, culture and heritage of First Nations people and display these within an immersive and 3D participatory geo-spatial virtual environment.

Brett’s studies inspired him to establish a business that sought to deliver virtual reality products that merged traditional knowledge with 3D virtual landscapes to present pre-colonisation Australia with all its embedded traditional Aboriginal culture, language, artefacts, community, trade and much more.

He has developed numerous websites, represented First Nations Internet interests at the United Nations Forum on Internet Communication Technologies in Tunisia, and held Board positions for not-for-profit community organisations in health, housing, media, communication and the arts. Brett presently sits on the Digital Strategy Forum for the National Museum of Australia.