The House Opening

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When Geraldine Kawangka’s husband died she and her six children moved out of their suburban-style house at Aurukun on Cape York Peninsula. In earlier times their bark house would have been abandoned and burnt to avoid contact with the dead man’s spirit and to allow it to return to its own traditional country. Now, with Western-style housing, this is no longer possible. Instead a ‘house-opening’ ceremony has evolved at Aurukun as a way of dealing with death in the midst of new living patterns. The ceremony is a colourful and creative mingling of traditional Aboriginal, Torres Strait Island and European elements. Although the atmosphere sometimes suggests a party, its underlying purpose is serious. This film follows the opening of Geraldine Kawangka’s house and records her feelings about the ceremony, revealed in her informative and sometimes personal commentary.