Business innovation is thriving in Canberra

Posted 7 Sep 2017

Story by CBR Canberra

Canberra is a city bursting with innovation and opportunities everywhere you look, and many local businesses are flourishing in the capital.

Dion Devow and Tyronne Bell are two Canberrans that are reaping the benefits of the booming business community and establishing themselves as some of the capital’s most successful and inspiring business owners.

Darkies Design is the creation of Canberran, Dion, who established the Indigenous clothing label in 2010. The label aims to fill the gap in the market for contemporary Indigenous Australian clothing and provides Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander peoples with exclusive and affordable designs.

Darkies Design work with a number of artists and designers within the Indigenous community to produce themed apparel, including singlets, t-shirts, hats and bags, as well as other print media for mainstream, sports and promotional use.


Dion’s decision to include the previously derogatory word “Darkies” in his business name was deliberate. It’s his way of shining a more positive light on the historically negative use of the word towards Indigenous Australians, and instilling a sense of pride in the community.

The success of the business was highlighted in 2014, when it was named the ACT NAIDOC Indigenous Business of the Year. Dion followed up this success by taking out the 2016 ACT NAIDOC Person of the Year.

Darkies Design was also awarded a contract with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in 2016 designing ceremonial uniforms for the First World War Centenary Commemoration on the Western Front.

Following in Darkies Design’s footsteps is Tyronne Bell’s company, Thunderstone, which has recently been named the 2017 ACT NAIDOC Indigenous Business of the Year.

“It’s a great validation of what we have achieved in a relatively short period of time,” says Tyronne.

“It is an honour to be recognised among a high level of successful Indigenous businesses and individuals in Canberra.”

Thunderstone are an Aboriginal cultural and land management service offering guided tours, cultural talks, didgeridoo playing and bush tucker garden services to the capital. Tyronne says their aim is to bring awareness to the rich Aboriginal culture and history of the local region.

“We see our key role as educators,” he says,

“We engage the community by sharing our cultural knowledge and stories through education programs and on country tours, which we hope gives them respect and appreciation for the local Aboriginal culture so it can be preserved for future generations.”


Tyronne grew up in Yass and is an Ngunawal descendant who has lived on country all his life. He learnt the traditional culture from his father, Don Bell, and has carried on that knowledge to become a strong advocate for the recognition of Indigenous Australia and the culture and language of the Ngunawal people.

Tyronne brings his knowledge about country to the wider Canberra community through Dharwra Aboriginal Cultural Tours – a part of the Thunderstone brand.

As the first tour company of its kind in Canberra, the tours offered by Dharwra range from short, half and full-day experiences around Mount Majura, Mount Taylor, Black Mountain, Flea Creek and Namadgi National Park.

Tyronne says being able to bring part of his traditional heritage to the Canberra community is important to him.

“Canberra and its surrounds form part of my traditional country as an Ngunawal person. The region still has many places of cultural significance to the Ngunawal people and I love being on country and sharing my knowledge with the wider community.”

As for business opportunities, Tyronne says Canberra is the place to be.

“We’re a major city, but obviously still small enough to be able to network and build meaningful partnerships with like-minded people and businesses. We also have some great resources, such as the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN), which supports and promotes Indigenous business innovation.”

To learn more about Darkies Design and available products, visit their website.

To learn more about Thunderstone or to book a Dharwra tour, visit their website.

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