In Travel Group recently had a yarn with Indigenous entrepreneur and Australian of the Year award winner, Dion Devow.
Can you tell us who you are, where you and the mob are from, a little about your background?
My name is Dion Devow and I am an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander man and a father of three. I was born and raised in Darwin but moved in Canberra in 1994 to attend university. After graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Science in health education. On my father's side I am Manbarra. We are traditional owners for the Palm Island Group in North Queensland, and South Sea Islanders (Kanakas) from Tanna Island. My mother's people are from Erub or Darnley Island in the eastern Islands of the Torres Strait.
Can you tell us about your business? What do you do?
I am an Entrepreneur and have worked in community development and Aboriginal Affairs for over 20 years within the areas of health, education, justice and more recently business and have always work to help my people.
I have also developed a business for my daughter Tea’, who is 12 years old, called www.teaandbelle.com.au .
Tea is very interested in business and has been since the age of four, so last year I, along with a friend, developed this business for our daughters to celebrate them as kidpreneurs and to promote Reconciliation.
I have developed https://canberraindigenousentrepreneurscentre.com.au to assist Indigenous people with their business journeys.
How do you manage to juggle it all and make it work?
All of my endeavours work as I have a great support network of family members, who are also my business partners, with clearly defined roles that allow me to keep abreast of all of my businesses and allow me to also continue to be creative and develop all of my businesses and keep my family life balanced. I have strong faith and this is what keeps me going and gives me guidance through the good and bad times in my life.
Can you tell us how you came up with the name Darkies Designs?
I came up with Darkies Designs because I am dark skinned and have always been very proud of that, and I wanted to change the word DARKIE (which has been used in a derogatory way throughout history to describe people of colour) to a positive word that represents a label that expressed pride in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture through imagery, art, and language through design of clothing etc.
How important do you think it is for Indigenous-owned businesses to do well in mainstream Australia?
It is very important in that it sets the tone and changes the way our people are perceived.
And what about Indigenous employment? Is that a feature of your business? Or do you think it's an important thing for Indigenous businesses to aim for?
Yes, Yes and Yes! Statistics show the Indigenous business owners employ Indigenous people and this is great, but I am more focused on being a role model for other black fullas.
Tell us about winning the Australian of the Year award?
Wining the 2018 Australian of The Year Award for me was a complete surprise. It was and will always be a great moment in my life, and it validated the fact that what I am doing is what I am meant to do. That I am on the right path, but the best part is that I was able to share the experience this journey with my wife Danni and with my Children, Dante’, Tea’ and Sienna and that they can now say that their Dad is one of few Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the history of the awards that has been nominated and was a state winner and a finalist for National Australian of The Year Award. I want them to know and believe that they can achieve their dreams and aspirations, whatever they might be, and that I will be right there behind them to support them in their quests to achieve them.
What advice do you have for others who are following in your footsteps?
Be Bold, be strong, believe in yourself, and acknowledge those who have helped you get to where you are. Never forget where you came from. God has a purpose for us all, seek him out ask for guidance and you will have success.
As we're a travel company, we should ask a travel question: Do you travel for work? Do you travel for holidays? Fav destination? Where, when, why?
I have always travelled, for work, for holidays et. My favourite places in Australia are Palm Island, Darwin, Ingham. Overseas, my favourite places are Fiji and Hawaii.