Take a virtual tour of Hunter sites with Aboriginal Elders

08 Jul 2018

As part of NAIDOC Week's opening celebrations, Newcastle City Council and community partners today launched virtual reality (VR) technology to transport viewers back in time to when Awabakal and Worimi people lived traditionally within the local lands of Newcastle.

Using a virtual reality headset or a smart phone, the Niiarrnumber Burrai, or Our Country, video immerses the viewer in Newcastle's landscape prior to European settlement with Elder characters sharing knowledge of their significant places, their traditional names and cultural stories.

Our Country is now available for download from Council's YouTube channel.**

The VR immersion starts at Cathedral Park and moves to the following eight dual-named locations:
• Whibayganba - Nobbys Headland
• Tahlbihn - Flagstaff Hill (where Fort Scratchley sits)
• Burrabihngarn - Pirate Point
• Coquun - Hunter River (South Channel)
• Khanterin - Shepherds Hill
• Toohrnbing - Ironbark Creek
• Burraghihnbihng - Hexham Swamp

"Today is a great day for reconciliation in Newcastle," said Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes. "The video aims to bring the language and stories of the Awabakal and Worimi peoples to a broader audience and embed dual names into our everyday usage.

"The content creation of Our Country was led by local Aboriginal people supported by local VR consultants Virtual Perspective, making this project a strong and inclusive community effort.

"Business and education communities will be able to use this VR experience to increase respect for and celebration of local Aboriginal cultural heritage."

The video's two Elders are voiced by Worimi man Luke Russell as Wayila (Black Cockatoo) and Awabakal woman Terri-Lee Darcy as Buuyaan (Bellbird).

"The stories allow visitors to walk on country and be received by local Aboriginal Elders," said Luke Russell. "We want everyone to be welcome on country and to understand what it means to be custodians of the land.

"Everyone involved has worked very hard to make the scenery, stories and language as traditionally accurate as possible, using resources from local historical documents and artworks."

“The most invaluable help we received was from our old people, who guided us through this amazing experience.”

Our Country was funded in partnership with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, and also involved assistance from Aboriginal linguist Donna McLaren, the University of Newcastle, Miromaa Aboriginal Language and Technology Centre, Wylaa Buuranliyn and Virtual Perspective.

The catalyst for the project began when the eight dual names were gazetted by the NSW Geographic Names Board in June 2016 after Council endorsed the Guraki Committee's application in 2013.

The VR package launch follows the trial of the first of eight interactive signs that will be placed at these locations to increase the visibility and usage of dual names.

The signs provide history and stories about each of the sites, reinforcing Aboriginal principles of respecting Country and ensuring the protection of sacred spaces.

NAIDOC activities and exhibitions

Muloobinba Map: A tour of the Aboriginal stories and objects in Newcastle Museum

The Muloobinba Map will guide visitors through significant local Aboriginal stories represented in the Museum, highlighting cherished local objects, stories and people in the collection.

Launch event: 10am to 2pm, Wednesday 11 July 2018, Newcastle Museum
Enjoy a range of cultural experiences, with educators from Indyamarra Cultural Group and Aboriginal dance performances throughout the day.

Because of Her, We Can! 2018 NAIDOC Photography exhibition, Wallsend Library

In celebration of this year’s NAIDOC theme Because of Her, We Can! and in partnership with Council, Awabakal recognises Aboriginal women of the Hunter communities who have made valuable contributions to the Awabakal people.

The exhibition will be on display at Wallsend Library through Saturday 4 August 2018.

**For best viewing experience use on the YouTube app with VR headset such as Google Cardboard, Google Daydream, Samsung Gear and Oculus Go. For desktop viewing watch using Chrome, Firefox, MS Edge, and Opera Browsers.