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UC alumnus the ACT’s 2018 Australian of the Year

Antony Perry and Vanessa Lam

25 January 2018: Twelve months after being named ACT NAIDOC Person of the Year, University of Canberra alumnus Dion Devow added another accolade to his name.

Mr Devow was overcome with emotion last November as he was presented the ACT Australian of the Year award for 2018.

He received the honour in recognition of his clothing label and work championing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to achieve their business dreams.

To learn more about Mr Devow's work, read the story below, which was first published following him being named ACT NAIDOC Person of the Year in October 2016.

After more than 20 years helping local Indigenous communities, University of Canberra alumnus Dion Devow’s work has been recognised by being named this year’s ACT NAIDOC Person of the Year.

The award recognises his work in Aboriginal health promotions for the ACT Government, his volunteer work as an Indigenous Community Volunteers ambassador and through his business, Darkies Design. Mr Devow, who completed a Bachelor of Applied Science in Health Education in 1997, said he was proud his work for the community has been recognised at such a prestigious event.

“It’s a huge thing and it’s the highest honour for Aboriginal communities all across the country, so to be the ACT recipient of this award is massive,” Mr Devow said.

Mr Devow’s business Darkies Design, is an Indigenous clothing label that collaborates with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and designers to produce contemporary Aboriginal themed apparel and print media.

In 2014, his business was named ACT NAIDOC Indigenous Business of the Year. The win inspired Mr Devow to then create the Canberra Business Yarning Circle alongside the Canberra Innovation Network to assist other Indigenous people to achieve business success.

“We got people to come from all different areas of the community to consult with the Aboriginal community about what support mechanisms we can provide for Aboriginal people that are interested in business or that are in business already,” he said

“It was great because it gave a lot of people the confidence knowing that they can take that step and begin to become business people or entrepreneurs and that’s what I wanted to do.”

Originally from Darwin, Mr Devow started his business in 2010 after he couldn’t find Indigenous Australian clothing labels that he felt suited him and discovered there was a gap in the market for contemporary Indigenous Australian clothing.

“I wanted to be able to wear fashionable clothes that expressed how proud I am of being an Indigenous Australian, but the ones that were out there weren’t my type of style,” he said.

“So I decided to come up with a few designs of my own and I came up with about ten and just got them printed on t-shirts and sold them to friends and family.  They were received really well and then I thought maybe this could be something that could take off.”

Starting with 20 designs he began selling the clothing online and while the business has expanded, Mr Devow is glad he’s still able to give back to the community.

“There’s a whole range of things that have come out of it but I think having that link still being able to touch base with the community and helping them through business has been fantastic.”

Mr Devow also currently helping to establish an ACT Indigenous Chamber of Commerce to provide Indigenous business owners with a network relevant to their unique needs.