August 31, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier

ICC Sydney has teamed up with First Nations digital storytelling venture Bilbie XR Labs and the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC) to produce a digital education experience in Darling Harbour through September and October.

Produced with support from the CBDs Revitalisation Program overseen by Investment NSW, Gadigal Dreaming – The Sacred Country of the Gadigal People is a series of animated scenes depicting life on Gadigal land, on which the city of Sydney and ICC Sydney are located, prior to European settlement in 1788.

The eight scenes showing gathering, fishing, corroboree, crafting, tracks, hunting, camp life and cosmology legends will play on the digital screens throughout Darling Harbour at sunset and then on the hour every hour until 11pm.

The project is part of ICC Sydney’s commitment to reconciliation with Australia’s First Nations’ communities and follows the launch of the venue’s second Reconciliation Action Plan earlier this year.

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

“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.

“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.”

CEO of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council Nathan Moran said the activation demonstrated the healthy partnerships possible on the journey of reconciliation.

“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,” said Moran.

The digital installation also includes an augmented reality element accessed through viewers’ smartphones which presents a 3D experience of pre-European life in the area.

“This activation at ICC Sydney at Darling Harbour is researched, designed and produced to inspire audiences about the historical traditions of the Gadigal people,” said Bilbie XR Labs founder Brett Leavy

“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,” said Leavy.

As Sydney looks to reboot its night-time economy, 24-hour economy commissioner Michael Rodrigues was also at the launch of the activation yesterday.

“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,” he said.

ICC Sydney told micenet it will continue to invest in the Gadigal Dreaming activation beyond its current run and it will be available to both public audiences and business events organisers using the centre.

Other projects funded through the $50 million CBDs Revitalisation Program include public art, a variety of festivals throughout Greater Sydney, talks and live music, much of which is yet to be delivered.