Video Documentation


Barrawao seeks to bring about an understanding of the deep connection between Language and Country in an embodied and experiential manner.

The initial idea for this project was to showcase all languages of Australia on a map the user could fly over in VR. After even early discussions among the project team, and with external advisors, it quickly became clear that the relationship of language to Country and the necessary consultation protocols required a scaling down of the project. For a while, we considered representing the whole of NSW, but again, realised this needed to scale back further; that a re-creation of Country and language in a virtual world needs to happen through a slow process of co-design together with the appropriate Knowledge Holders, after spending time walking on and listening to Country, lest it become a re-colonisation of land, culture and language by displaying collected languages as artifacts and squeezing the landscape into a shape determined by technology and colonial ideas of the map.

So we refocused on Sydney. Sydney is complicated, linguistically. As Danièle Hromek states in her PhD thesis - “The land Sydney sits upon is home to a number of Aboriginal groups, and has long been a destination and a space of movement as peoples from the north, west and south travel through the area staying with kin on the way. These groups have differing names and languages, which originated from oral traditions with multiple dialects. Colonisers have not always well understood Aboriginal ways of forming words, thus there are many ways of saying and spelling them.” We attempt to retain this sense of complexity in the VR, by including both D’harawal and Darug words in a shared space, rather than drawing boundaries on the land, and by representing words in their spellings from the various sources rather than standardising them.

Invitation to Participate

We see this VR experience as the start of a project, not the end. If you are a language Knowledge Holder who would like to have your knowledge included, we would love to talk to you about how we could work together to bring your words and perspectives into the project.


Barrawao is co-designed in a collaboration between Andrew Burrell (Lecturer, Visual Communications, UTS), Shannon Foster (D’harawal Sydney Saltwater Knowledge Keeper), Rachel Hendery (Linguist, Western Sydney University), Danièle Hromek (Budawang/ Yuin, Designer and Researcher), and Louisa King (Lecturer, School of Architecture, UTS).

We would like to thank Professor Jaky Troy for her time in conversation with us when the project was first forming and highlighting possible directions for the project as well initial encouragement to move forward with it. We would also like to thank Marcus Hughes for his invaluable insight and constructive criticism that informed a shift in scope and final realisation of what the project would become.

A very special thank you to Uncle Greg Simms for allowing us to include his voice and for sharing his knowledge of both Language and Country. Uncle Greg Simms is an Elder with ancestral ties to the Gundungurra people of the Blue Mountains and the Gadigal people of the Darug nation.

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Shannon Foster, spoken in D’harawal

Wadeayeo Galumban
Ngeeyinee bulima nandiritah
Didjariguru guwanayio’miya

Welcome to Spirit Country
May you always see the beauty of this earth
We thank you for remembering our Ancestors

Uncle Greg Simms, spoken in Darug

Worimi mittigar gurrum burruk Tiati murra Daruga pemel koi murra ya pemel ngalaringi bubbuna ban nye yemna wurru nang nye dice gai dyi ya nangami dyarralang daruga ngalaringi tiati ngalaringi nangami gai guy a willy angara gu-nu-gal nu-nu-gal da la-loey moogoo cot-ballie nangami dice la-loey gnia tarimi gu-nu-gal tiati ngalaringi ya daruga eorah mittigar gurrung burruk gneene da daruga pemel didgeree gore.

This is Darug lands. It is the land of our ancestors. Their spirits still walk among us. Spirits that have been here since the dreaming. Darug language has been passed down from generation to generation to continue an unbroken culture that has extended for thousands of years. In the language of the Darug people, we welcome you to Darug lands. Thank you.


Words from the Darug language
garraway sulfur crested cockatoo Troy 1994*
mulgoa swan Uncle Greg Simms
wumbat wombat Troy 1994
bunda hawk Troy 1994
wirambi bat Troy 1994
barrugin echidna Troy 1994
buru kangaroo Uncle Greg Simms
birrung stars Troy 1994
nura country or place Troy 1994
worimi hello Uncle Greg Simms
midjiga friend Uncle Greg Simms
marrang sand or beach Troy 1994
eora people Uncle Greg Simms

Words from the Dhurga language
djinta the first sunlight shining
through the dew
in the morning
Hromek, p.c.
nura country or place Hromek, p.c.

Words from the D’harawal language
guggugarra kookaburra Andrews et al, 2007
wugan raven Andrews et al, 2007
beela black cockatoo Andrews et al, 2007
binit tawny frogmouth Andrews et al, 2007
guwali (goowallee) cormorant Andrews et al, 2007
ngoonungi flying fox Andrews et al, 2007
grungrok green and gold bellfrog Andrews et al, 2007
gugad frog Andrews et al, 2007
mungari birdsong Andrews et al, 2007
barrawao to fly/to make haste Andrews et al, 2007
galamban home / spirit country Aunty Fances Bodkin
garigalo salt water Aunty Fances Bodkin
garrayura sky Andrews et al, 2007
garrigarang sea/ocean Andrews et al, 2007
garuma saltwater fish (black bream) Andrews et al, 2007
gawura whale Andrews et al, 2007
widud sand or beach Andrews et al, 2007
bulima spirit land Andrews et al, 2007

*The spelling of the words in Troy (1994) is an attempt to standardise/reconstruct across multiple sources, including colonial lists from 1790 onwards, and later word lists from 1900-1988. Sometimes common usage by community members today is different from the earlier sources, e.g. mulgoa for ‘black swan’ instead of mulgo from the sources in the 1980s and mulgu from Troy (1994). Languages are constantly changing, even when there has not been a break in transmission, and these kinds of discrepancies might reflect language change, perhaps during the re-learning process, or long-standing dialect differences.


Andrews, Gavin, Frances Bodkin, and Gawaian Bodkin-Andrews. 2007. Dictionary of the D’harawal Language (with grammatical notes). Electronic version available at This is commonly known as “Aunty Fran’s dictionary”.

Troy, Jakelin. 1994. The Sydney Language. AIATSIS: Canberra.

A song for the whale baby

Reimagined and sung by Shannon Foster, in D’harawal

gawura gudahgah

nangirri dahli

dulumah, dulumah

d’harawal kai’mia

ngahmuru yuolee

bohdahlah, bohdahlah

Whale baby sleep and come this way. The people and their warrior will guide you and protect you to the safe place for children.


Where possible, sounds in the project were recorded on Country by the project team. Barrawao is in continuous development, so as we make more recordings we will replace those below. Where possible, the sounds we have sourced below were recorded in the local environment represented in Barrawao