Collaborate start-up on a time travel mission to early Brisbane

Monday 24 October, 2016

Imagine walking through open woodlands and rainforest across the pockets and bends of the Brisbane River, way back in the 1820s.

Or through the settlement town now known as Brisbane a century later, in the 1920s.

This virtual tour of Aboriginal tribal camps and the early penal colony will soon be possible, thanks to the creative skills of start-up Virtual Songlines and founder Brett Leavy, former Wallaby rugby player, track & field champion, and member of the western Queensland tribe Kooma.

Brett and his Virtual Songlines design and tech team are working out of Impact Academy, based at CCIQ’s Collaborate accelerator hub in Spring Hill.

Virtual Songlines was selected to participate within the Impact Academy accelerator and has benefited significantly through this engagement. The team is working long and hard to get the 3D virtual reality project up and running.

He describes himself as wanting to be a “time traveller”.

“We use historical records, old photographs, paintings, leasehold maps, hydrology data, CSIRO surveys … a whole raft of different things to bring another time and place period back to life,” he said.

Brett, a former indigenous broadcaster, now specialises in immersive heritage. His software will enable users to step out of the Queen Street Mall 2016, into the creek bed that sits underneath that mall and shoppers from nearly 200 years ago.

Using the computer keyboard, or better yet an Xbox controller, anyone can become an Aboriginal character and move throughout the scene. Ultimately, they will be able to spear kangaroos and other animals, use boomerangs, fish and make fires as a basic survival experience.

It is linked to the Bureau of Meteorology website so the weather changes in the scene by the hour.

“It will be both a game and an educational experience … encompassing the arts, culture, language and knowledge of First Nation people. We want to make it so you feel like you a really there,” he said.

Brett has been negotiating with Brisbane City Council to get Virtual Songlines into more than 30 libraries. He has also been in discussions with city leaders in Sydney and Adelaide for seminal projects in these southern states.

“There is no reason why Virtual Songlines can’t be adapted for every city across Australia and even throughout the world. We’ve received interest expressed from several cultural heritage groups in the United States, Canada and even South America.

“I’m inspired by the feedback, the support and the chatter about its enormous potential,” he said.

Brett said he needs more hours in the day and money in the bank so we can “buy” time to develop the program and advance their projects.

He is starting to explore state and federal grants, and striving for some attention from investors who might support start-ups. His strongest support has been Impact Academy, who has been engaging potential investors about the commercial potential of Virtual Songlines.

“I think everyone who has been shown this concept has said how amazing it is. They are blown away by the attention to detail we pursue and they agree this is truly a time-travel experience.”

Brett’s work has already seen him given the Brisbane City Council 2015 Innovation Award for Virtual Meanjin.  Meanjin is an Aboriginal word for the land where the City of Brisbane is located.

His 3D presentation included seeing Brisbane from Kangaroo Point, from the perspective of Dundahli, an Aboriginal man who was hanged in 1855 on the site of the present Brisbane Post Office.

For more information, visit: or

virtual songlines 


Solving problems. Building businesses. About Collaborate.

In a unique approach to helping businesses to start-up, accelerate and innovate, the state’s leading business group, a global start-up incubator, a social enterprise accelerator and the state’s leading financial services provider have partnered to create Collaborate, a unique accelerator challenging entrepreneurs and creative thinkers to solve the problems of small business. For more information on Collaborate, visit:


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