Western Australian Stolen Generations survivors and members of the Aboriginal community can now access State missions through virtual reality simulations.

Virtual walkthroughs are available for three Western Australian mission sites including Mogumber Mission, Wandering Mission and Carrolup Marribank. The walkthroughs are accompanied by commentary from survivors.

Curtin University has partnered with Yokai, also known as the West Australian Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation, to create the first-of-its-kind tool.

Yokai is a not-for-profit organisation that offers Stolen Generations survivors support through the impacts of ongoing trauma. The organisation bases its approach on Aboriginal culture and collective ways of healing.

Yokai Managing Director Jim Morrison said virtual reality could be an opportunity for redress.

“Our children and grandchildren can be better informed of what happened to their Old People,” Morrison told NIT.

“Our Old People aren’t talking about what they’ve been through.

“The recording of stories and adding them to virtual reality will allow survivors to walk through at their own pace.”

Professor Reena Tiwa from the School of Design and Built Environment at Curtin University said for many survivors, the missions are the only homes they knew growing up.

“These missions are of course places of incarceration and of trauma and abuse,” she said.

“Many of the sites are abandoned, but they still carry a mix of memories, emotions and experiences.

“When Yokai contacted us they originally wanted to rehabilitate the sites as healing centres for survivors.”

Professor Tiwa said while documenting the sites for potential rehabilitation, the team also made digital documentation of the site through drones and scanners.

“We were able to create a fly-through of the entire mission environment,” the Professor said.

“When survivors came and experienced the fly-through, memories were triggered, and they started to speak with each other.”

Professor Tiwa said the resulting conversations and emotions were mixed.

“This is where we started developing the idea of recreating mission sites as virtual environments,” she said.

“We thought it could be useful for healing and education, the survivors’ kids and grandkids and for truth-telling for non-Indigenous Australians as to what actually happened to their Old People … it could have a devastating impact.”

Professor Tiwa said the reactions from the Indigenous community and their counterparts has been very positive overall.

“We have had public viewings that involved surveys and the response has been brilliant,” she said.

“In terms of the scientific approach to healing, the way it will be assessed will take around six months to assess everything.”

By Darby Ingram