La-Donna Hollingsworth is of the Buluwai clan of the Djabugandji speaking nation and Kuku Bidiji Aboriginal peoples of the Atherton Tablelands, Cairns and Cape York Peninsula areas. Her family has a long history of involvement in community music and she herself is a singer and songwriter.
She has done formal study in music and also performed nationally and internationally at festivals and cultural events as well as in theatre, film and television. She is motivated to perform for several reasons: firstly, it is “in her blood”; and secondly, it is a way to present messages drawing attention to issues impacting not only on her life but also on the lives of others.
La-Donna Hollingsworth is a firm supporter of social justice for everyone and much of her music reflects those concerns – but her music is also a celebration of Indigenous Australian culture.
The Djabugay Aboriginal people of northeast Queensland are also known by the names Djabuganydji and Tjapukai. Their original homelands include the mountainous tropical rainforests near to modern day Cairns and Kuranda. For them , the landscape is filled with storyplaces and storywaters and their culture has been passed on down the generations so that today their tribal history is an important part of their tribal history is an important part of their modern world.
With the arrival of European colonists the Djabugay’s ancient way of life was gradually detsoryed and their terrirotires and hunting grounds invaded and cleared for settlements, mining, logging and agricultural, thus disrupting the traditional uses of resources, cultural activities and language. The relentless dispossession lead to confrontation, including the Speewah massacre in 1890. In retaliation for the spearing of a bullock many Djabugay were killed by settlers and the government’s Native Police force. Eventually many aboriginal people in the general area, including Djabugay, were compulsorily relocated to Mona Mona Mission near Kuranda, which was established in 1913 and run by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. However, in 1962 the mission was closed and some people who were forcibly relocated at that time have now returned to the area.
Aspects of Djabugay culture are commemorated, celebrated and performed at the award winning tourism venue, the Tjapukai Cultural Theme Park in Cairns. It offers day and night time performances of music, dance, theatre and story telling, educational activities and a retail outlet. It is located at Caravonica at the base of the present day elevated cableway that travels from the coastal lowlands to Kuranda high on the plateau, which is also serviced by scenic railway traversing Djabugay country.
In 2004, the Djabugay people’s Native Title claim was recognised over Barron Gorge National Park and they continue to promote and maintain their culture via educational and cultural activities.