Time travel through Ipswich with new VR project

Ipswich will be recreated in an immersive virtual reality game to show what the city looked like before European settlement.

The man behind the project is Brett Leavy – Creative Director of the interactive development company, Virtual Songlines, and self-described ‘Virtual heritage Jedi’.

Working with Ipswich Libraries, Mr Leavy is asking the community to help him create the digital landscape using historical data and stories that have been handed down through generations.

“I love history and I want to build a time machine and I think I can do something close to that,” Mr Leavy said.

“I’m asking the community to come here and tell me their stories and we’ll use those oral histories to drive the content. 

“The focus is firstly on getting Indigenous residents involved, but I want to work with all residents to build a world class application for Ipswich that no one’s ever seen before.”

Using Oculus headsets, the user is immersed in a role-play based game back in 1826, using a mix of visuals, sounds, topography and local animals and vegetation to bring the scene to life.

“It’s about building knowledge, but doing it in a fun way,” Mr Leavy said.

“Looking at different parts of the scene will tell you something about that place and you can move between scenes or to a different camp by focusing on a pair of feet on the path.”

Descending from the Kooma people of south western Queensland, Mr Leavy lived in Ipswich for several years while working as a geography teacher in Boonah.

His fascination with coding and creating with computers started at a young age after his Aboriginal grandma encouraged him to get into computers.

“I built my first program as a 17-year-old, making the computer flash ‘hello’. That was well before Microsoft and Apple came along,” Mr Leavy said.

These days, the self-taught developer is a leader in the VR space and sits on the Digital Strategy Forum for the National Museum of Australia.

He wants to expand on the 37 Australian cities and towns he has digitally mapped so far.

“I want it to help change perceptions and connect people,” Mr Leavy said.

“Eventually I’ll build a way for you to consciously go anywhere in space and time. Imagine that.”


Brett Leavy will be visiting Ipswich Central Library to share his project and gather contributions from the community. You can also see a large scale map of the local area in 1826 and explore the VR worlds with Oculus Quest headsets.

The free sessions will be held in the Barry Jones Auditorium on the following dates:
Thursday 12 December    12.15 pm – 2.00 pm
Thursday 16 January        12.15 pm – 2.00 pm

This project receives financial support from the Queensland Government and Telstra.


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