It was a special moment at Brisbane’s Design Graduation in late June 2021 when close to one hundred graduates to listened to Bilbie Lab Creative Director Brett Leavy deliver a truly inspiring speech.
Brett is a self-described ‘Virtual Heritage Jedi’ whose project Virtual Songlines uses virtual reality (VR) and gaming to recreate the heritage of First Nations by reconstructing Australian landscapes through narratives and recollections passed down over millennia. The project is an interactive way of keeping Indigenous stories alive and gaining a better understanding and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The pursuit of dreams began at home
Brett’s told us that his mother was a “fourth-grade dropout - an Aboriginal girl who wanted to do more in education but had to work as a farmhand. Her career path saw her as a laundry maid, a cleaner and a nanny.
She wanted more for Brett and his sister and brother. She saw the value of education and wanted her children to go to the best schools. Brett credits her for instilling the ability to learn early.
“I think that you learn all the time, you learn your entire life. So, don't stop learning, don't stop improving,” Brett said.
Like many young people, Brett did not lack ideas about the future, once his imagination was fired.
“I had so many dreams when I was sitting in the seats that you are when I graduated way back. Who I wanted to be, what I wanted to accomplish, what stories I wanted to tell, what companies I wanted to work for.”
1987 was a big year for Brett. It was the year he graduated. It was also the year he won the National Under 20 - 200 metre athletics final and was part of the Junior Wallabies Rugby team which beat the New Zealand Kiwis.
A career change and a message to be bold
Sport holds a special place for Brett but he found himself without money, without a washing machine and fridge. It was suddenly time to switch it up and get a job. He took a break from elite sport and settled into a 2-year stint teaching in Queensland before returning to study. The experience was instructive.
“Never be afraid of change, embrace any opportunities you have and if you encounter setbacks, make new plans,” Brett said.
He urged our graduates to not wait for permission to make life changes, saying it’s important to try, fail and persevere.
“Whenever you might feel derailed try to find your rhythm and don't wait for someone to say you're ready. Just do it. I say act - act courageously. Fall, fall forward. So that way you know where you're falling. And then get up and go again.”
The special place which is Bilbie Labs
Bilbie Labs has a crew of ten wonderful people made up of great historians, designers and programmers who all strive for that little bit extra, and don’t settle for mediocrity.
Torrens University Design graduates were encouraged to align themselves with people who encourage them, and with people they can learn from.
“We look for all the special bits, we seek higher ground, and I say to you - seek higher ground, rise above the crowd, soar like an eagle.”
Brett shared telling stories about an eagle, a bull shark and a dingo - evoking lessons for our graduates.
“Roam wide. Soar high. Swim against the tide,” he insisted.
He challenged our graduates to go forth, influence others and never underestimate how impactful they could be.
“Start with ten and influence them majorly. They will influence another ten, and from your initiation those ten will go on to influence another ten.
“In 20 years, it’ll amount to 3 million people that you might influence. Think about that. That’s your path.”Watch Brett’s speech in full here.