Indigenous entrepreneur Dion Devow named 2018 ACT Australian of the Year | ACT | Office Space Canberra \
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Indigenous entrepreneur Dion Devow named 2018 ACT Australian of the Year

Indigenous entrepreneur Dion Devow is 2018’s ACT Australian of the Year, winning the title for his clothing enterprises and work championing other Aboriginal people to achieve their business dreams.

He achieved the honour on Monday evening and will join 32 state and territory recipients at the national awards on January 25.

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

Darkies Design, started in 2010, produces contemporary Aboriginal-themed clothes and print media for mainstream, sports and promotional use.

The business collaborates with Indigenous artists and designers to produce Mr Devow’s designs, and has also supplied ceremonial uniforms to the Department of Veterans Affairs for the teams participating in Australia’s First World War Centenary Commemorations on the Western Front.

He works with other Aboriginal people to build businesses and achieve economic independence, in 2014 creating Indigenous business owners network the Canberra Business Yarning Circle.

The entrepreneur also sits on the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body.

Zack Bryers, once a homeless teenager and now a youth worker, was named the ACT’s Young Australian of the Year.

The 28-year-old former soldier in Afghanistan, gridiron player for Australia and Churchill Fellow adds his latest honour to his achievements after leaving home at 15 and living on the streets.

A goal to join the army turned his life around, and he spent tours of duty in Afghanistan before he was medically discharged with post-traumatic stress disorder.

He set other goals later, making the Australian gridiron team within 18 months and playing in the World Cup in the US.

Mr Bryers then trained as a youth worker and is now YouthCare Canberra’s first full-time outreach worker, helping teens find temporary accommodation, attend court or hospital, overcome drug addictions or transform their lives after time in jail.

Prize-winning biophysicist Graham Farquhar was named ACT Senior Australian of the Year, winning the accolade in part for his work examining how water efficient crops can protect food security in a changing climate.

Dr Farquhar has worked to improve world food security by developing strains of wheat that can grow with less water, and in 2017 he became the first Australian to win a Kyoto Prize, the most prestigious international award for fields not traditionally honoured with a Nobel Prize.

Supporter and fundraiser for sick kids Suzanne Tunks was named the ACT Local Hero for 2018 after creating the Stella Bella Little Stars Foundation.

She was driven to create the foundation after her daughter Stella was born with congenital heart disease, spending half of her short life of nine months in hospital.

Since then, Ms Tunks has raised more than $720,000 to provide support and financial assistance for families, covering everything from food and petrol to chemist accounts and emergency accommodation.

In 2017, she opened the Stella Bella Children’s Centre, which provides respite care, while the Little Star Beads Program aims to brighten the lives of seriously ill children by giving them a bead for specific medical procedures and milestones in their treatment, which then become a symbol of their courage.

She is expanding the Little Stars Bead Program to hospitals all around Australia.

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