Skip navigation and go to main content

virtual whadjuk transports you to another time and place

8 July 2019

See Perth disappear as you go back in time

during naidoc week  ‘Virtual Whadjuk‘ – a free virtual reality event is being held at yagan Square in Perth.

audiences can experience whadjuk noongar culture first hand and see how boorloo (perth’s name prior to 1829) was before european settlement.

immerse yourself in a smoking ceremony and be welcomed to country, and witness the moment European ships arrived.

overseen by respected whadjuk noongar elder barry mcguire in consultation with the vivienne ‘binyarn’ hansen – a balladong whadjuk yorga woman, the project embraces the traditional and contemporary values of the local community, and uses new storytelling technologies to help share and maintain aboriginal language, knowledge and culture.

the project has been created by local company periscope pictures. producer alice wolfe and her team have been working in pvi collective’s shared workspace for several months.

wolfe describes the project as an amazing way to connected to whadjuk nonngar culuture.

“The interactive activities inside the experience serve to teach new audiences elements of whadjuk noongar culture and language and to emotionally connect them to Aboriginal culture in new ways,” wolfe said.

“virtual whadjuk seeks to create a profound emotional connection and understanding of how that moment of first contact with Europeans may have been for aboriginal people.”

utilising virtual reality technology by oculus, old maps and historical knowledge from local elders and biologists has informed the accurate creation of this virtual world.

“perth city has been superimposed as wireframes onto the ancient landscape to help place the user and to show the immensity of changes that have occurred,” wolfe said, describing the project.

the project haas been supported by Screenwest, Screen Australia, Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority, City of Perth, Western Australian Museum, and the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.

screenwest ceo willie rowe is thrilled local audiences will have the opportunity to experience noongar culture and perth landscapes through virtual whadjuk.

rowe has high praise for the work and it’s powerful storytelling saying; “the end result is an amazing mix of art and storytelling,”

“The demand for immersive, interactive technologies is growing and we know local and global audiences are fuelling the trend for high quality, meaningful content that suits virtual headsets and in this vein, I’m delighted Virtual Whadjuk is being used to activate Yagan Square during NAIDOC Week 2019.” rowe said.

alice wolfe chatted to us about the process of making a VR work.

How would you describe Virtual Whadjuk?

Virtual Whadjuk is a VR experience that takes you back in time to see Perth and Whadjuk culture as it would have been before European settlement.

What are the challenges of working in VR as opposed to a regular film project?

It’s a new format for me so just understanding the workflow and the technology has been a learning curve. Essentially it is an iterative process so scheduling sign off points is not as straight forward as with film or TV projects. It’s also a fairly new format for the funding bodies so trying to fit into their traditional models and also educate them along the way has been challenging.

Immersing yourself in the story is a very powerful experience, how have people been reacting to the work as you’ve tested it?

Reactions have been extremely positive. Most people haven’t tried VR before so they’re amazed at the technology alone. Seeing Aboriginal elders and people in the Noongar community react so positively has been really rewarding.

How does storytelling change when you’re working on a VR project?

There are no cuts or edit points so building tension or drama has to come from the sound design or the movements of the characters. Also you can’t ultimately control what people will see and do in the experience so you have to be open to people exploring it in different ways.

People who have experienced Virtual Whadjuk, what do they share with you after they take off the headset?

Our cultural consultants have commented on how accurate it is, we did a lot of research to get the various elements right, including cultural aspects such as what the people and the camps would have looked like, what the traditional ceremonies and protocols were, and also what the locations around Perth would have looked like, including the type and distribution of plants and animals. People usually look a bit stunned but in a good way.

What have been the frustrating moment when working with this mix of sound, animation and interaction?

There are so many aspects that need to harmonise for a VR experience to feel truly immersive and ‘frictionless’. It’s not only the sound design, the animation, the dialogue and timing but also the frame rate, quality and hardware used.

working with a Queensland animation company meant that it was just a bit harder to truly collaborate but we eventually found our groove and are all feeling very proud of what we’ve achieved.

Virtual Whadjuk is a free event at Yagan Square from 7-13 July between 10am to 2pm daily. Suitable for ages 13+. Duration: 10 minutes. Participation by walk-up only – no registration required.



sign up to our newsletter.