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Dion Devow, Darkies Design

Inspiring indigenous leaders through business success

Dion Devow is an entrepreneur who is passionate about helping other indigenous business leaders achieve their dreams.

Dion’s controversially named business, Darkies Design, came about as a result of him wanting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designs on clothing.

In 2010, there were only a couple of indigenous clothing labels in Australia, and the clothing and designs were not Dion’s style, so he came up with 20 designs of his own and sold them to friends and family.

That was the beginning of Darkies Design.

When Dion chose his business name, he wanted to reclaim a derogatory term and express pride in his Aboriginal culture and heritage.

Dion was born and raised in Darwin. He is of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent with Aboriginal heritage that stems from Palm Island in Northern Queensland and Darnley Island in the Torres Strait.

Dion loves running his own business and supporting the indigenous community through his business.

“It means everything to me as my whole life, in particular my career, has been supporting the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.  I have worked in Aboriginal health, education, justice and now business, and of all of these areas, I feel most empowered through my ability to generate business and to show other indigenous Australians how to do this,” Dion said.

“There are many things I love about running my own business - I love the challenge; I can use my creativity and lateral thinking; the buzz of creating something people want to invest in, both financially and emotionally; I can make my own money; and I can encourage people of all colours through business.”

Dion has grown the business to include designing and sourcing indigenous promotional materials for organisations and departments, for events such as NAIDOC Week and Reconciliation Week.

Darkies Design also works closely with a printing company to produce magazines, books, brochures, reports, stationery and posters.

In 2014, Dion created the Canberra Business Yarning Circle, an indigenous business owner’s network.

Dion recently received the ultimate recognition for his contribution to the indigenous community – the ACT Australian of the Year award.

“To be awarded ACT Australian of the Year this year is a sign that my work in trying to help people has actually made a difference, and has been recognised. That gives me an immense feeling of pride, but also humbles me in a way that I cannot put into words.  It is also something I can cherish and share with my beautiful wife and three children, and that just means the world to me,” Dion said.

As the owner of a successful business, he is a great champion for indigenous people to build businesses and achieve economic independence.

“Believe in yourself and your product! Don’t quit your day job, use your family and networks and break out of your comfort zone. Although business is fantastic, it is not easy so be clever about it, get a good mentor and always have something to fall back on because you have to take time and a few cracks at it before you succeed,” Dion said.