Traditional culture, tomorrow’s technology: CSIRO award for Indigenous innovator


Rhett Loban (far right) accepts his award with honourable guests (L-R): Jennifer Dawson, (Principal, Indigenous Affairs, BHP Foundation), Dr Chris Banks (Acting Project Director, Indigenous STEM Project, CSIRO), Dr Aunty Kaye Price AM (Chairperson, Indigenous STEM Awards Judging Panel) and Dr Leanne Holt, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous Strategy.

A virtual reality project that brings Torres Strait Islander culture to life has seen one of Macquarie’s brightest young Indigenous educators recognised with a CSIRO Indigenous STEM Award.

Rhett Loban, an Associate Lecturer in the Department of Educational Studies, received the Career Achievement Award for his virtual reality game Torres Strait Virtual Reality (TSRV), at a special ceremony on campus on 12 March.

The awards recognise outstanding Indigenous students and scientists for their contributions to STEM, as well as their impact as role models for young Australians, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

Rhett – who is completing a PhD on the power of virtual reality in learning and teaching – says he created the game as a way of sharing and celebrating his rich heritage.

“Torres Strait Islander people have such a vibrant and unique culture, and there isn’t currently that much material about them out there, so I wanted to fill that gap,” Rhett says.

rhett_insetThe game follows a Torres Strait Islander person as he prepares for a traditional Tombstone Opening Ceremony, with players tasked with gathering key elements for the ceremony including drums, mats, spears and turtles.

Rhett has used the game in his own teaching of Indigenous culture, as well as the amazing potential for virtual reality tools in teaching.

“Virtual reality is a great new way of learning as it allows people to view the world from another perspective, which can be very powerful,” he says. “Using virtual reality and game-based learning creates a much more visual and interactive way of learning, helping students engage with the content and put what they are learning into context.”

Rhett plans to use his $20,000 prize to open the virtual door to Torres Strait Islander culture for a much wider audience.

“I have a learned a lot during this VR project and I hope to use this knowledge to create a new game for the public to play.”






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