AURUKUN HAS A RARE CULTURE
The traditional homelands of the Wik, Wik Way and Kugu people lie in and around the Aurukun Shire. The community is rich in traditional cultural practices. The predominant language is Wik Mungkan with remains of other dialects still spoken. English is taught in the school.
Based on the 2006 Census, 93.7% of the population is Indigenous (3.5% of the Queensland population is Indigenous). Furthermore Aurukun is deeply linked to its traditional culture – 86.7% of the population speaks a traditional Indigenous language at home.
This is rare in the Queensland Aboriginal population – only 5.3% of thetotal Queensland Indigenous population speaks a traditional Indigenous language at home. Traditional culture in the Aurukun community was not deliberately undermined (for example by prohibition of speaking of the native tongues) as it was in most other communities.
Occupation of traditional lands (the outstation movement) has been inhibited by the lack ofwet season transport options and by lack of institutional support in recent years. Now,however, traditional owners are receiving strong support from their corporation Aak PuulNganttam which is placing a strong emphasis on outstation development and sustainability.
The local residents are the creators of stunning arts and crafts now held in high esteem anddisplayed in prominent museums and galleries around the country and across the World.
Traditional house opening ceremonies take place in Aurukun regularly – they are moving events to witness.
Aurukun is one of the very few remaining places where visitors can immerse themselves in the Aboriginal heritage and learn about the culture from the people, firsthand.
CREATIVITY WITHIN TRADITION
The house opening ceremonies of Aurukun are drawn from ancient tradition, from when people camped in the bush on their traditional lands in temporary shelters.
Traditionally, access to the camp area in which someone had died could be “closed” for up to two years. Eventually a ceremony would be held near that place shortly before the wet season to send the deceased person’s spirit back to his or her traditional lands and to set the place right for people to live in again. The immediate family and the in-laws of the deceased would hunt and gather food for a large feast and groups from other clans would be invited to participate. Those who came, all well dressed and decorated, would demonstrate their condolences to the close family in moving expressions of grief.
People live in different circumstances today. The people have the benefit of permanent modern homes. However, with a high level of overcrowding in community housing, homes in which people die may now be closed for only three months – that is a family decision. Families still play the same role in arranging and catering for the ceremonies but store-bought food is provided. Songmen and traditional instruments support traditional dances but recorded music is also played. Songs and dances directly address the spirit of the deceased, assuring it of continuing remembrance. Many different groups dance, each group in a distinctive and colourful costume. The ceremonies serve to remind the people of their traditional culture and