Kieron Saunders

Digitising Dreamtime

A young scholarship student's quest to bring Dreamtime stories to the gaming world.

In the lounge room of his Cooktown home, 15-year-old Kieron sat engrossed in his video games, hardly imagining that a casual suggestion from his mother would change his future.

I was playing COD, and my Mum asked if I wanted to go to boarding school,” Kieron says. “I wasn't paying much attention and was like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ A couple of weeks later, I did the interview and got accepted into Cape York Leaders Program to go to Brisbane Grammar School. I was very happy. I didn't really have much of a plan for my future but going to Grammar made me realise I had a lot of options.”

 Moving away from Cooktown to Brisbane Grammar, brought its challenges, including higher academic expectations, for the self-described shy teenager. But Kieron focussed on the positives.

“I was like, ‘Okay, I am given a great opportunity here.’ I looked at the benefits and, for me, they were much greater than staying in Cooktown,” Kieron says. “After four weeks at Grammar, I had a moment when I realised my family and friends are still going to be there. I can just do the best for my family and myself by sticking it through.”

And it was Cape York Leaders Program that provided the consistent wrap-around support and guidance Kieron needed to navigate the years ahead.

“If I had any issues that I didn't know how to solve, I felt comfortable asking CYLP, because I knew them and was close with the staff,” Kieron says. “I found it easy to ask them for assistance.”

 As Kieron neared his high school graduation, he found himself torn between two paths.

“Education was an option because I was inspired by teachers I had in high school,” Kieron says. “I was a difficult student at times. I can acknowledge that. But I am exceptionally grateful for the effort they put in and the sacrifices they made for me to actually achieve something that I can be proud of.

“Coding was also a strong passion. I love fantasy books and anything to do with world-building. With coding, I can create any world that I imagine. I also realised there were opportunities for me to do things in the future that I could bring back to assist my community and the people who helped me.”

My vision is to create a game where players can immerse themselves in Indigenous stories from Dreamtime and experience them firsthand.”

Kieron Saunders

Kieron Saunders

It was that raw passion for creativity that won out with Kieron accepting a tertiary scholarship from Cape York Leaders Program and is now in his third year studying a Bachelor of Games and Interactive Environments at Queensland University of Technology. He's currently focused on bringing the Dreamtime stories he learnt as a kid to life through games to create a vivid digital window into Australia's Indigenous culture.

"My vision is to create a game where players can immerse themselves in Indigenous stories from Dreamtime and experience them firsthand,” Kieron says.

After gaining permission to recreate the stories from the elders, Kieron is keen to incorporate details about the culture and language of the region where the stories originate.

“One of the great things about this project is the fact that players will learn about the original tribes of that location and their language through voiceovers and subtitles.”

While Kieron’s project has an Indigenous Australian focus, he believes it has great potential for other cultures around the world.

“I hope it can inspire other cultures to do the same,” he says. “I would love to see a digital version of, let's say, the Native Americans' stories. I see this game as a tool for enhancing Indigenous representation in gaming and promoting cultural awareness."

 Kieron's passion hasn’t gone unnoticed at home. His younger sister is keen to follow his footstep to university and game design.

“I'm very happy to know that I've inspired my youngest sister to go uni, because I was the first in my family,” Kieron says. “She wants to get into a coding degree, same as me. She enjoys the idea of game design because she's an amazing artist. We can create beautiful artworks and then bring them to life together.”

More than being just inspiring his sister, Kieron is also a role model for the Secondary Leaders of Cape York Leaders Program and often ‘gives back’ by supervising at Term Events and camps, and retelling his journey at the end-of-year CYLP Next Steps Conference.

In Cooktown, Kieron played games. Now, he designs them. But it’s not just coding, it's culture. He's mixing old stories with new tech, ensuring they remain relevant and remembered – a save point for future generations.


For more information, visit the Cape York Leaders Program page


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