Getting back on Country: traditional owner-led repatriation, digitisation and exhibition design of Olkola cultural archives

Combining participatory design, mixed reality technologies, archaeological science and digital cultural heritage to deliver innovative solutions for the repatriation of Olkola heritage


Important artefacts belong on Country and getting them back on Country strengthens Olkola culture. Our artefacts are a long way off Country but they belong here. Uncle Mike Ross, Olkola Chairman

Getting Back On Country is a Traditional-Owner led transdisciplinary research project that furthers ongoing partnerships between the University of Melbourne and the Olkola Aboriginal Corporation.

This project harnesses innovative technologies to digitise Olkola cultural heritage. It combines participatory design, mixed reality technologies (virtual reality and augmented reality), archaeological science and digital cultural heritage to deliver innovative solutions for the repatriation of Olkola heritage.

Getting Back On Country establishes a pilot process for digitising Olkola cultural archives and significant sites. Expected project outcomes include the digitisation of key cultural artefacts from archives across Australia, culminating in a mixed-media exhibition of the collection.

This project innovatively transcends disciplinary expertise to provide significant social, cultural and economic benefits for Olkola People and a collaboration process that supports Indigenous peoples across Australia.

This project was supported by a Melbourne Social Equity Institute 2020 Seed Funding Grant.


Virtual reality is helping Olkola Traditional Owners get back on Country, The Conversation, 5 September 2023.

Research Team

External collaborators

Olkola People, Traditional Owners

Debbie Symonds,  Olkola Aboriginal Corporation

Michael Ross,  Olkola Aboriginal Corporation

University-based researchers

Dr Hannah Robertson, Melbourne School of Design

Associate Professor Rochus Hinkel, Melbourne School of Design

Dr Lyndon Ormond‑Parker, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health

Dr Helen Green, School of Earth Sciences

Professor Rachel Popelka-Filcoff, School of Earth Sciences


For information about this project, please contact:

Dr Hannah Robertson
Melbourne School of Design