Dyarubbin Baragula VR

19:42 21 January 2019

‘The lowlands flood’, the Booroborwongal clan warned the invaders. We settled anyway; floods regularly devastated the Hawkesbury colonists from 1780. In Dyarubbin Baragula VR [Dharug for Hawkesbury Floodtide], users in a CGI night-time flood-scape stand in rising and ebbing waters. Grasping luminescent pre- and post-contact objects suspended in the swirling darkness, triggers tales from many perspectives.

Jannawi 4

Floods are artistic and unconscious/dream metaphors for great forces sweeping away eras and structures, the turning-upside-down of the known world, the fear and horror of what lies beneath, of being dragged under and swept away. Invasion swept away so much of the culture, lives, crops, hunting and infrastructure of the Booroborwongal. The colonists’ destruction, clearing and ‘farming’ exacerbated flooding, the great river takes its revenge over and over.


Aesthetically, Dyarubbin Baragula is dark waters, atmospheric, mesmerising. Illumination comes from an aesthetic and design strategy in which local natural materials (bark, insects, fish scales, minerals, fur, cotton) are scanned using confocal microscopy which captures their natural bio-luminescence and bio-flourescence (minerals, such as quartz which were deployed extensively by the Dharug). This bio-luminescence will be used to animate, texture and bring alive the night-time flood-scape and objects. The bio-luminescence represents the life forces of objects made from natural materials and that of the land itself. The water is made volumetric by swarms of fish and/or smaller debris.


The user experience is to stand thigh-deep in the edge of the ebbing and flowing waters, feeling their force with the racket of the flood in your ears, the waters stretching into the dark infinity. There is a forest behind, sentry-like. In the water, you can spot suspended objects, alive with bio-luminescence, bedevilled by water spirits, flowing towards and slipping away from you. An indigenous tool, a nightdress, an old tin, a school pin. We touch the objects; they touch us. Using the emotionally immersive, innovative potential of VR, Dyarubbin Baragula aims to increase curiosity, empathy and understanding of an iconic Sydney site, it’s histories and post-contact relations. The project mobilises Post-Colonial Gothic aesthetics and themes to enliven and re-imagine intertwining connections between local Indigenous and non-Indigenous “environmental narratives”[i], using objects as reliquaries for stories.

[i] Karskens, G. 2016. Floods and Flood-mindedness in Early Colonial Australia. Environmental History, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 315-342. The University of Chicago Press on behalf of American Society for Environmental History and Forest History Society.



Aboriginal Australia

13:45 13 February 2008


I am humbled to say I have longtime professional and personal experience of Aboriginal Australia. I’ve worked in several communities teaching media production for the AFTRS and MetroScreen, and mentoring media producers and artists. For the most part I have eschewed driving Aboriginal content, seeing it as the right of indigenous people to tell their own stories. I did however direct a video for the NPWS NSW in 1999, ‘Inard Oongali’ about seven female elders from Toomelah working with the late Carol Kendall, OAM who was one of the original authors of the ‘Bringing Them Home’ report. During my time at the Museum of Sydney I interviewed and edited extensive oral history interviews of local Aboriginal people who identify with original Sydney tribal groups. This video is installed in the museum; and I worked collaboratively with the photographer Michael Riley on a video about Redfern called ‘Guwanyi’.

In 2017 I produced the fulldome video ‘Wiradjuri Murriyang’ by Wiradjuri artist, Scott “Sauce” Towney and astronomer Trevor Leahman, funded by Arts OutWest Local, Lands Services and the Big Skies Collaboration and by The Regional Arts Fund, an Australian Government initiative that supports sustainable cultural development in regional, remote and very remote Australia. In 2016 I produced the WebGL (online VR) Indigenous student engagement project for Badanami Centre, WSU, with director Jarrad Hodges.


Excerpt from Inard Oongali.