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Australia’s oldest Indigenous tourism business welcomes new GM

A female Traditional Owner will be at the helm of one of Australia’s oldest Aboriginal tourism businesses following the appointment of Djabugay descendant Shirley Hollingsworth as Tjapukai General Manager.

Tjapukai Board Chair Michael Nemarich congratulated Ms Hollingsworth on becoming the first Djabugay person to be appointed to the Tropical North Queensland cultural park’s most senior role.

“Shirley joined Tjapukai as a casual junior retail assistant in 1997 and over the past two decades has worked in all aspects of the business,” he said.

“Both her desire to upskill through training and her leadership qualities led to Shirley taking on several management roles before being appointed General Manager.

“Djabugay people have been the backbone of the Tjapukai business since it was launched in 1987 as a vehicle to share their culture and create employment for their people. Currently 70 per cent of our 63 staff are Indigenous people and half of those identify as Djabugay.

Ms Hollingsworth said the motivation in her work comes from the Djabugay elders who helped create Tjapukai and her family within the broader community.

“It was their resilience, vision, wisdom, knowledge, honesty, integrity and guidance that encouraged me by saying it’s okay to be Aboriginal and to be proud of who we are as a people.

“Djabugay people have been the backbone of this business and it has helped preserve their connection to country, identity, language and culture in an evolving world.

“Working at Tjapukai gives you the opportunity to be proud of who you are. I feel I have a responsibility to ensure we maintain this so Tjapukai is still around for future generations and continuing what our elders started.

“I don’t do it alone – we’ve got a strong team of people all with their own strengths.

“It is very important to understand and maintain the balance between business and culture to keep our mob engaged. We also consult with Buda:Dji who were originally our elders, and are the commercial arm of the Djabugay Tribal Aboriginal Corporation, to ensure we are meeting our cultural requirements.

“Tjapukai has been a leader in many areas including Indigenous tourism, reconciliation in action, and in providing employment opportunities for our workers and youth to gain new skills.

“I am humbled to take on this senior role and look forward to the challenge of playing a part in proudly presenting Tjapukai as the premier Indigenous cultural experience in Australia ­– sharing the rainforest culture of the Djabugay people with visitors from around the world.”

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