ICC Sydney connects visitors to First Nations culture through augmented reality activation

29 Aug 2022

International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney), managed by ASM Global, together with Bilbie XR Labs — an award-winning First Nations digital storytelling enterprise, the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC) and with the support of Investment New South Wales, has today launched an innovative First Nations audio visual experience for all visitors to the Darling Harbour precinct.

The digital experience, ‘Gadigal Dreaming – The Sacred Country of the Gadigal People’, transports visitors to Gadigal Country, the land on which ICC Sydney is situated, at a time prior to European arrival through interactive, animated scenes that depict the traditional cultural practices of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation.

From 1 September to 31 October, Gadigal Dreaming will be shown at sunset daily on the outdoor screens throughout Darling Harbour, Tumbalong, and then every hour on the hour until 11:00pm.

The program consists of eight scenes covering gathering, fishing, corroboree, crafting, tracks, hunting, camp life and cosmology legends that will be released over the two month period. Through QR codes, it also provides viewers with an augmented reality experience through their own devices.

ASM Global Group Director, Convention Centres & ICC Sydney CEO, Geoff Donaghy said his team stood alongside its partners Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, Bilbie XR Labs and First Nations community partners and hoped that this project demonstrated another way in which the venue team was committed to Reconciliation.

“Our gratitude goes to Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, Bilbie XR Labs for their counsel on the Gadigal Dreaming activation and to Investment New South Wales for its support.

“As an iconic destination, which stands and operates on the traditional lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation – the land of Tumbalong and the waterway of Gomora, on what is known today as Darling Harbour – ICC Sydney strives to truly reconcile with First Nations people through our business practices.

“We hope Gadigal Dreaming will increase visitors to this dynamic family-friendly precinct and encourage event attendees to stay longer in the area,” Mr. Donaghy said.

Chief Executive Officer of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, Nathan Moran said: “As CEO of Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC) it’s been a great honour as the local Aboriginal representative body for ICC Sydney to work collaboratively with ICC Sydney on ensuring its design and operations reflect local Gadigal culture heritage. This project is a further example of this relationship that MLALC proudly promotes as a sample of effective and respectful partnership of both respective bodies,” Mr. Moran said.

Gadigal Dreaming – The Sacred Country of the Gadigal People is proudly supported by the NSW Government through the CBDs Revitalisation Program.

Minister for Enterprise, Investment and Trade Alister Henskens said, “The NSW Government’s $50 million CBDs Revitalisation Program is reigniting social connection, place based storytelling and economic activity in urban centres across Greater Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong, through a range of arts, music, food and beverage and cultural events.

“Gadigal Dreaming is an innovative and compelling project that will draw people in to explore through First Nations stories while assisting to accelerate economic recovery in the Darling Harbour precinct– key elements in the NSW Government’s CBD’s Revitalisation Program.”

Michael Rodrigues, 24-Hour Economy Commissioner said the activation will help to draw visitors back to Sydney’s CBD through a meaningful, place-making experience.

“Stories of people and place are at the heart of the 24-Hour Economy Strategy, and there are none more compelling than that of the Gadigal people of Eora. I welcome the collaboration between ICC Sydney, the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council and Bilbie XR Labs and am confident Gadigal Dreaming will be an enriching experience for the city. I can’t wait to check it out myself.” Mr Rodrigues said.

Bilbie XR Labs Founder, Mr. Brett Leavy says they are honoured to present Gadigal Dreaming.

“This activation at ICC Sydney at Darling Harbour is researched, designed and produced to inspire audiences about the historical traditions of the Gadigal people. The immersive, high-definition and innovative experience represents the day to day lifestyles, culture and the environmental spaces through an augmented 3D digital genre.

“At Bilbie XR Labs, we pride ourselves on being entirely Aboriginal-owned and managed. As a virtual heritage design studio with a lab in Redfern, we essentially transport visitors back in time into a virtual place to experience the cultural activities of the Gadigal people.

“Each digitally mapped virtual heritage environment embeds authentic cultural practices, Gadigal language and respectfully showcases the deep connection of the Gadigal peoples to their land.

“Ultimately, these creative works represent a suite of unique virtual heritage storytelling experiences that share an ancient wisdom and knowledge about custodial land and resource management that sustained the Gadigal people since time immemorial,” Mr. Leavy said.

Gadigal Dreaming’s evolving schedule of content will be projected onto ICC Sydney’s digital signage in the Darling Harbour precinct and is best experienced through two modes — either activated through a QR code or through the artistic, animated video expression.

By scanning a QR code at each position, visitors are transported to a 360 experience on their mobile device showcasing the life of First Nations people of Gadigal Country prior to 1788. The interactive digital experiences are complemented with video depictions of the traditions and stories of the Gadigal People.

Bilbie XR Labs, a First Nations social impact application development organisation works at the forefront of virtual reality animation. The digital design agency combines cultural artistic expression through an innovative medium developed in collaboration with traditional custodians.