The House Opening


When Geraldine Kawanka’s husband died, she and her children moved out of their house. In earlier times their bark house would have been burnt, but today a “house-opening” ceremony has evolved, creatively mingling Aboriginal, Torres Strait and European traditions in order to deal with death in the context of new living patterns in the Aboriginal community of Aurukun, on the Cape York Peninsula, north Queensland.

This beautifully observed documentary shows both the preparations for the ceremony and then the elaborate event itself, involving ritual, dancing, music and a big feast that not even a sudden drenching tropical storm can disrupt.

Narrating The House Opening herself, Geraldine Kawangka expresses her feelings about the gathering of family members, explains the relationships between old and new traditions and finally examines her feelings about returning to her house after the ceremony is over.

She talks about how the ceremony is essential as a way to teach young people about traditional values and customs and to give them a sense of belonging to a huge extended family: “if our children lost these ceremonies, children wouldn’t know who they are or where they come in”.


Release dates
1980 - Australia
Video/DVD release date
December 2012
G - general
Ronin Films

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Cite this page

Korff, J 2018, The House Opening, <>, retrieved 14 June 2024

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