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The Augmented Reality App Bringing Aboriginal History To Life

App developers are hoping new technology will help preserve one of the world's oldest cultures.

Developed by technology firm Isobar, in partnership with Indigenous specialist agency Cox Inall Ridgeway, the Ngarandi app has been designed to make the 65,000-year history of Indigenous Australians more accessible to the population of today.

Ngarandi -- which means "to know" in the Dharawal language -- uses augmented reality and geolocation to bring the experiences of Sydney's traditional landowners, the Eora people, to life.

"You can see what life was like before all the big metal structures and skyscrapers were there," Cox Inall Ridgeway consultant Marlee Silva told 10 daily.

Silva -- an Aboriginal woman -- facilitated conversations between tech developers and Aboriginal stakeholders throughout the process of creating the app.

Voiced by former chairman of Indigenous Tourism Australia, Dr Aden Ridgeway, Ngarandi was created after declining participation in Indigenous tourism experiences.

Experiences in the app include the story of the Eora Fisherwomen, who dominated fishing activity in the Warrane, or Circular Quay.

As users reel in virtual Yellowtail Kingfish, Leatherjackets and Dusky Flatheads, Ridgeway explains how these women would sing together as they rowed across the harbour in bark canoes.

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People visiting large cities appear to be failing to find ways to engage with Aboriginal people -- an issue the developers hope the app will help address.

"This was the case for so many people coming to places like Sydney or Melbourne or metropolitan centres where there aren't a lot of tourism opportunities with Aboriginal people in particular," Silva explained.

Another game takes you through the process of building a traditional Nawi canoe.

Though initially created with tourists in mind, Silva hopes the new tech will resonate with all Australians and act as an entry point for people who would otherwise have had little to do with Indigenous history.

"It's an education piece for everyone. My family's not from Sydney, so hearing the stories of the Eora people, that's new even to me. So it's really exciting," she said.

"We're a culture that's based on an oral history. We've lasted for over 60,000 years all through telling stories and  some of those get lost if elders don't get to pass them on. The stories that we have left weren't written down, it's important for us ensure that culture lives on down the track."

Aden Ridgeway speaking at the National Press club in Canberra, 2010. Image: AAP

Experts fear Indigenous languages are also at risk of disappearing.

According to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), before European settlement, there were around 250 Indigenous languages spoken in Australia, including 800 dialects -- but today, only 13 are still learned by children.

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The team behind the app hope it can help in some small way to spreading awareness and knowledge of Indigenous languages.

"For me if one person who has never heard an indigenous word before can go, hey I've got this app called Ngarandi on my phone and that means 'to know', that's massive," Silva said.

People participate in a NAIDOC week march in Melbourne, Friday, July 6, 2018. Image: AAP

Ngarandi will be released on Wednesday, in the lead up to next week's NAIDOC Week. It is available on iPhones and Apple's App store.

This year's theme is Voice, Treaty, Truth, referencing the key reforms set out in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The theme, Silva said, is part and parcel with the app.

"We're telling the stories of what was here before what we know as Australia today, the truth of our history and the truth that we were here always," she said.