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Studio portrait photograph of Mark Dion Devow.

Entrepreneur and community leader
2018 Australian of the Year | Australian Capital Territory

When he chose a controversial name for his business, Dion Devow wanted to reclaim a derogatory term and express pride in his Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage. Established in 2010, Darkies Design features Indigenous art and design on a range of apparel and promotional material. Dion now champions other Indigenous people to help them build businesses and achieve their dreams.

Dion's graduation sash and rosary

Family, religion and education underpin all aspects of Dion Devow’s life. They gave him the confidence to start his design business, which celebrates Indigenous art and culture and employs a collaborative and inclusive approach to working with artists and designers.

Dion wore this sash at his graduation ceremony at the University of Canberra. It was made especially for him, as he was the only graduate that year with both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage. The rosary is a connection to his faith.

A sash that is half red and black and half aqua and purple. The end of the red and black side has yellow fringe along the edge. There is an Aboriginal flag in the shape of Australia above the fringe. The purple and aqua side has white fringe with a white Torres Straight islander flag.

Sash and rosary from Dion Devow

Family support

My parents always encouraged me to aim high, work hard and reach for goals. This has only continued with my own family. I want to show my kids what they can achieve and that it’s OK to do things for reward, recognition and respect, as well as wanting to help and contribute to your community.

Proud moment

I recently spoke in front of 200 people. It made me realise that I can stand up there and not be shamed, and that people listen to what I have to say, and they value what I have to offer: my experience, my heritage, my knowledge as a blackfella, as a businessman and as a leader.

Coming together

At the end of the day we are all people, we are all part of the community, we are all Australians; no matter what colour, what creed and what nationality. And I also think we all need to really celebrate the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the first peoples, the oldest living culture in the world.

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