Five Questions with Dion Devow

In 2013, Twitter Hosts by IndigenousX

Dion Devow was Indigenous X host from September 27 to October 4, 2013.

Five questions to Dion

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, I decided to stay. 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.

I currently work at the Australian National University in the Tjabal Indigenous higher education centre and undertake recruitment and community engagement for the Australian National University. I am also the deputy chair of the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Consultative Group, which is a ministerial appointed group that advises both the local and federal ministers for education on the needs of Indigenous Australians within the ACT.

I am also the owner of Darkies Design, which is an Australian clothing label for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I started the business because I had a concept about creating an Indigenous clothing line and was encouraged by family and close friends to go for it. I wanted to be able to wear fashionable clothes that expressed how proud I am of being an Indigenous Australian. My use of the word “darkies” is deliberate, in that I want to reclaim the word – hence the slogan “Darkies Design – reclaiming the name!” Why should the word still be seen as negative or derogatory in contemporary Indigenous society, especially when we as a people were not responsible for the derogatory or negative use of the word? I am very proud of the colour of my skin and so are all of the Indigenous people I know, no matter how light or dark they are.

I want to speak about something I strongly believe in, which is giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people the ability to express how proud we are of being Indigenous Australians by wearing clothing celebrating our culture/s, giving us a sense of pride. However, it runs deeper than this: “100% Pure Australian” is a message on one of my clothing range. It is a powerful message that aims to break down barriers, stamp out discrimination and eliminate racism. I will expand on this and speak about my views on identity and racism as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander man.
I have been inspired by three key people throughout my life. Firstly my father Mark Devow who at the age of 12 started labouring as a cane cutter in Ingham North Queensland. At the age of 68, he is still working as a labourer. My father also had a business in Darwin for many years, so I learned from a fairly young age that Indigenous people could be successful business owners – so I knew I could start my own business.

My mother Lyn Devow also inspires me. She went from cleaning the toilets at the primary school I attended to attaining a masters in education, and until recently was lecturing at James Cook University in Townsville QLD. She is still today seen as an expert within the teaching field and Indigenous education after dedicating more than 30 years of her life to it. At the young age of 68 she has gone back to the classroom, and is teaching Indigenous children from remote Queensland and Northern Territory communities at Shalom College in Townsville.

My other role model is my oldest and closest childhood friend Nova Peris, who not only encouraged me to start the Darkies Design business but one day said to me, “Dion, don’t dream your dreams … Live them!”

I am passionate about my family – my beautiful wife Danielle and my three children Dante’, D’shontea’ and Sienna.
My hopes for the future are firstly to give me children every opportunity to pursue and accomplish their dreams and aspirations through education – and to nurture these aspirations by loving and supporting them in the way I was by my parents, with sound values and morals that stem from both a strong cultural identity and a firm Christian upbringing. As for my own personal hopes, well, I want to live my dreams!

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