Donna's lasting legacy

It’s a Port Macquarie shift in 2020. Over the buzz of washing machines, you hear the laughter of Donna’s captivated audience as she shares one of her well-known tales of hardship. Sitting on an orange chair, she is retelling a story of her childhood with comedic flare, trying to encourage her sister, Dee [a fellow Orange Sky volunteer] to join in. That was the special thing about Donna, she understood the light and shade of hardship. She knew how to create a safe space for people doing it tough to feel like they belong.

A passionate mid North Coast volunteer, Donna had an undeniable knack for connecting with friends. Donna was not unfamiliar with hardship, experiencing homelessness herself at points throughout her life. Her lived experience made her unafraid to look grief and suffering in the eye, whilst always finding laughter amidst pain.

In 2021, Donna’s health deteriorated. She fought her illness, continued to volunteer and kept her same vibrant attitude right till the end. Orange Sky is immeasurably grateful to Donna for choosing to spend her precious time donning an orange shirt and supporting the Port Macquarie community. Donna’s kindness continued by donating a gift in her estate to Orange Sky. We want to acknowledge the extent of Donna’s support of Orange Sky during and after her life.

In many ways, Donna’s life trajectory changed at the time she decided to become an Orange Sky volunteer. Over the years Donna’s ambitions hadn’t always come to fruition. Challenging life experiences and neurodivergence often impacted Donna’s attempts at a fair go. Seeking a fulfilling gateway back into the workforce, Donna learned about Orange Sky and signed up as a Port Macquarie vollie.

Original comment from Donna’s application (4th Aug 2018):

“I love talking to people! I love telling them stories to make them smile and have plenty of empathy as I was in a similar situation many years ago!”

Donna was out on shift soon after and became a well known and dedicated part of the Port Macquarie team, alongside her sister Dee who was already volunteering. There is no better depiction of Donna’s style of volunteering than her application. Donna’s storytelling, laughter and empathy became an important part of every shift and something that friends looked forward to. 

“Once Donna got the taste of giving back, she ran with it,” said Dee. Donna said yes to every volunteering opportunity Orange Sky had. She attended most shifts and formed connections everywhere she went. Donna’s confidence and wellbeing continued to improve as she began a TAFE course in counselling. A lifelong dream of hers. 

Donna’s health battles became life threatening in 2021, while her professional and personal trajectory was at a point of great pride. Donna’s mother, Susie, vividly recalls her seeing an Orange Sky shift request and, despite being in palliative care at the time, desperately asked to be the one to fill it.  “Do you think I could do it?” she pleaded. 

Donna’s legacy reminds us that we all deserve chances to get back on our feet and a place to belong. Orange Sky is so grateful to have been an outlet for Donna’s kindness. Each volunteer brings a different perspective and story to the tapestry of Orange Sky. Thanks to Donna Sturgess’ patch, the entire Orange Sky tapestry is much brighter.

Thank you to Donna’s mother, Susie and sister, Dee for kindly sharing about Donna and cultivating these words. Our hearts go out to Donna’s loved ones and the Port Macquarie community of friends and Orange Sky volunteers that meant so much to Donna, as Donna means to them.

Homelessness can be closer than we like to imagine

People have an idea in their head of what a person who’s experiencing homelessness looks like. We may reject the thought of ourselves reflected in this stereotype. Although the sad reality is that many Australians are struggling to make ends meet. With the rising cost of living, the impacts of COVID and the rental crisis, people who never expected to struggle are finding themselves in challenging situations. Although I have been very fortunate in my life, I can think of so many times where one or two changes in my personal life have pushed me to places I never thought I would be. 

My family moved to Australia from Zimbabwe/Botswana when I was twelve years old. My parents sacrificed a lot, including almost all of their life savings, to move my family here and give us a better life and opportunities. Although I was pretty oblivious at the time, I know that there were periods where my family struggled financially. If it weren’t for our family in Australia, the Zimbabwean community and the friends we made along the way, our situation could have been very different.

Dani is pictured below fourth from left in polkadots.

I think back to the Brisbane floods in 2011. My rental lease was up and the market couldn’t keep up with demand. As a full-time student with a part-time job, I simply couldn’t afford the inflated rental prices. I packed everything I owned into boxes and loaded them into my car. I had no place to live. If it weren’t for my friends who let me sleep on their floors and couches, who called their friends to see if anyone had a place for me to live, and who kept me positive and hopeful – my circumstances and the outcome could have been very different

In 2015, I found myself at the end of a long-term relationship. The bills that I was so easily able to pay half of had suddenly doubled. I had also recently left what I thought was my long-term career to go back to uni, and taken a much lower paying job. My savings ran dry and my mental health was at an all-time low. Thankfully, my support network of family, friends and co-workers helped me get back on my feet, get my mental health to a better place, find a new job and find a more affordable place to live. Without my support network, my fresh start could have turned into a very different reality.

Each of these times in my life, it has been the support and generosity of my community, my friends, my family, my workplace and my co-workers that has been the difference between having a home and potentially becoming homeless. I think everyone knows what it feels like to face the unknown or to be unsure if things are going to work out. You don’t have to have ‘experienced homelessness’ to know what it’s like to struggle or to feel lonely. 

The reality of financial insecurity is being felt across households nationwide. Last year one in two Australians had to change their living circumstances due to rising living costs. I have been that person and I know the difference that a supportive, loving, positive community can make. Orange Sky may not be able to change people’s circumstances, but what we can do is make sure that they have access to a safe and welcoming place to share their challenges and to feel like they belong.

NAIDOC Week 2022

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a proud history of getting up, standing up, and showing up. As an organisation that brings together thousands of Australians from all walks of life, Orange Sky acknowledges our responsibility to celebrate and show up for First Peoples within our community.

Orange Sky benefits from the voices and commitments of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples each and every day (including Veronica Yanawana (VY), one of our incredible team members in Bidyadanga pictured below). This NAIDOC Week, we reflect on our past, present and future commitments, and celebrate the important First Nations leaders who have been crucial to our journey. From friends and volunteers to our staff and supporters; Orange Sky is passionate about playing our part to Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!.

Prioritising reconciliation in our operations and enriched within our culture and policies. 

In May 2022, Orange Sky launched our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). This Innovate RAP is a mechanism for Orange Sky to #GetUp – prioritising reconciliation, not only in our operations but also enriched within our culture and policies. 

We recognise the tireless contributions of our RAP Working Group, and in particular, the cultural perspectives and knowledgeable voices of Racheal Higgins, Richard Cassady, Caleb Cassady, Leon Designs and Rhoda Tjitayi. 

Connect with Orange Sky’s Innovate RAP here.  

Improving equitable access to laundry services and employment in remote First Nations communities

Currently, 20% (eight services) of our Australian operations are in remote communities, aiming to bridge challenges with laundry access and costs. Our remote services include: QLD (Lockhart River, Palm Island, Aurukun), NT (Maningrida, Wadeye), and WA (Fitzroy Crossing, Bidyadanga, Yungngora). 

These remote services are made possible by some incredible local service partners such as Malal’a Health Service Aboriginal Corporation, Thamarrurr Development Corporation, Marra Worra Worra and Bidyadanga Aboriginal Community La Grange Inc. Our partners support paid employment opportunities for local people working on the Orange Sky van. Currently, Orange Sky creates ≈15 employment opportunities for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples in remote communities.

This includes legends like Gary (pictured, left) and Linton (right) who provide their community with access to laundry services in Maningrida NT, VY in Bidyadanga WA, and Thelma and Irene in Lockhart River QLD. 

Explore the remote communities we operate in here. 

Creating safe and respectful spaces for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander friends to connect on orange chairs

In the context of our work, we recognise the disproportionate rates of homelessness for First Nations peoples, particularly in remote communities. As we continue growing our social impact in an effort to support 40,000 friends by 2025, we acknowledge the importance of each orange chair that our friends sit on and each conversation we have. We are committed to creating safe, respectful and inclusive spaces to positively connect communities. 

Help Orange Sky Provide 'Connection without Conditions'

Tonight, over 116,000 Australians will be without a safe place to call home. Though, many more are isolated from their community, and in need of support and connection. 

Orange Sky is much more than free laundry and showers. We are a connection space for anyone experiencing homelessness or doing it tough. 

Each day, Orange Sky volunteers -like Mark – are there to provide a safe space to connect with our friends, no matter the circumstances. 



“The superpower for Orange Sky is connecting with people and allowing people to find and have a voice. And I think that once people connect with that, they just keep coming back.”

– Mark, Volunteer

Friends – like Kevin – regularly attend shift for the continued friendships and connection. 



“I come out here to socialise with people. You don’t have to be living on the street though to have a shower with Orange Sky and do your washing. There’s all sorts of scenarios that people need those sort of services.”

– Kevin, Friend

Hardship can fall on anyone. When Antonia’s Ipswich home was flooded, Orange Sky was there to wash over 40 loads of her family’s clothes, linen, kids’ uniforms and toys. To help her family through a challenge they had never expected.



“You guys taking on our washing, folding, and drying, it was just a godsend really. A service like this just takes away that one thing. To know that’s available when you need it and with no strings attached. I think it’s beautiful.”

– Antonia

Many people in our communities continue to be impacted by unexpected life events, such as natural disasters, economic crises and the ongoing effects of the pandemic. That’s why Orange Sky is committed to providing our service to those in need, no matter the circumstances. 

Help us continue supporting people like Antonia and Kevin, through life’s unexpected hardships. Providing clean laundry, warm showers and genuine connection, when people need it most. 

‘Be Brave. Make Change.’ this Reconciliation Week

The word ‘reconcile’ is a verb meaning ‘to heal relations with a person or group’.

This year’s National Reconciliation Week theme acknowledges the active nature of the word, encouraging us to Be Brave as we tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation, so we can Make Change for the benefit of all Australians.

Recently, Orange Sky announced the development of our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). Racheal Higgins is a pivotal member of Orange Sky’s RAP Working Group who developed the plan. Racheal is a proud Zenadth Kes woman and, among many other things, is an Orange Sky volunteer in Brisbane. You can read more about Racheal’s story here

Racheal told us what reconciliation means to her. “Reconciliation is about listening to one another’s perspectives, proactively educating ourselves and others and having the empathy to walk in someone else’s shoes,” she said.

To Racheal, truth-telling is a crucial instrument of reconciliation.

“We must acknowledge and accept the historical atrocities that have occurred and the resulting impact on First Nations peoples to provide a pathway toward healing and positively moving forward into the future.”

Rachel is pictured (on the right) with kids, Lily and Zane. 

In the context of our work, homelessness disproportionately impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Orange Sky recognises our responsibility to provide equitable access to our services for our First Nations friends doing it tough, as well as strengthening our commitment towards a reconciled Australia in all that we do. 

Orange Sky Board Member, Paula Holden shared with us the ongoing importance of reconciliation in our work. “Seeing people for who they are and building connection is at the heart of Orange Sky and is also the essence of reconciliation,” Paula said. “For Orange Sky to serve our community and operationalise our values, reconciliation must be at the forefront.”

Orange Sky is strengthened by the voices and contributions of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander friends, staff, volunteers, partners and supporters. Our work in remote communities began in Lockhart River in 2017, with regular shifts now operating in seven remote communities across Australia. 

Paula noted that remote service expansion cannot be rushed, “forming localised relationships that are founded in cultural respect and patience.” Though she acknowledged that more needs to be done; “At a board level, we need better First Nations representation”. 

Orange Sky recently launched our RAP to solidify our commitment to working alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to improve health and social outcomes and address inequities. As an organisation that brings together thousands of Australians from all walks of life every week, we recognise our obligation to prioritise reconciliation in all that we do, and acknowledge there is much more work to be done.

Racheal’s hope is for an Australia that is brave enough to own up to its biases and stand against racism. “I’d like to see my future grandchildren and all other Indigenous children not be burdened by racism and the stigma that still surrounds being a First Nations person in this country.”

To learn more about Orange Sky’s commitment to reconciliation, connect with our Reconciliation Action Plan.

I’ve been an Orange Sky Volunteer for four years, here’s what it’s taught me.

I learned about Orange Sky during a conversation over our family dinner table. My brother had come home from school beaming after hearing about a laundry and connection service for people doing it tough. He told me about the two young speakers – Nic and Lucas – who spoke to his school. Looking back, it’s fitting that a special conversation was the way that I learned about Orange Sky. After volunteering for four years and becoming part of the head office team over the past year; I’ve learned that ‘conversation’ is what it’s all about. 

I had just graduated high school when my brother told me about Orange Sky’s work. At that time, I was seeking something that would push me out of my comfort zone. I’d always been quite reserved and played it safe, but I was looking for a new opportunity. Something that would improve my mental health and actively help people.

When I registered for Orange Sky, I loved the flexibility and array of shifts I could join. I was leading a pretty busy lifestyle, so the Fortitude Valley morning shift worked really well. What I quickly learned was that the laundry service was merely a footnote of an Orange Sky shift; the main aspect is the sense of community. Whether that be conversations happening on the semi circle of orange chairs, or people standing together chatting over a warm breakfast and cuppa. Others may be sitting alone or reading a book. What I saw was people from all walks of life, enjoying time in each other’s company in a safe space.

Four years into my volunteering, I’m now lucky enough to work in the Head Office Team in operations. Also, I get to visit schools, and talk to kids about homelessness and the work that Orange Sky does. Given the impact the school talk had on my brother and my life, this is particularly special to me. Now, I get the chance to learn from and share with young minds about such an important aspect of our community. 

From these school presentations, I’ve learned more about the stigmas of homelessness. At the start of each talk I ask kids to share words they associate with homelessness. Most often, I hear “dangerous”, “dirty”, “scary”, or “alcohol”. When I explain that these are people like us, who didn’t have the same support networks, or that tough instances occurred that changed the shape of their lives; the kids respond so well. By the end of a talk, often children are sharing how wrong it is that people have to be in this situation. Other kids ask me how to sign up to volunteer. It’s so heartwarming. 

What I’ve learned during my time with Orange Sky is that there are some very inaccurate and heartless stereotypes that exist around homelessness. I understand as I had these same stigmas. Fortunately they were quickly reversed since joining Orange Sky. Now, I see the importance of reconnecting people in the community and the power of a conversation. 

Help to positively connect your community.

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Connecting Western Australia's largest Aboriginal community through laundry

Six months have passed since the Western Australian Kimberley coast town of Bidyadanga welcomed Orange Sky and our bright orange laundry trailer into the community. We’re incredibly proud to be working alongside the community representative body, Bidyadanga Aboriginal Community La Grange Inc (BACLG Inc), to provide this service.

Bidyadanga is Orange Sky’s fifth remote service, but the laundry trailer is the first of its kind; a solar-powered laundry system on a bright orange trailer. Powered by Bidyadanga’s 300+ days of sun and REDARC batteries, the trailer is fitted with three washers, three Waru dryers, and six orange chairs.

As a result of social, economic and geographic factors, laundry access can be challenging in Bidyadanga. Veronica Yanawana (VY), is a Bidyadanga resident and employee on the laundry trailer. On ABC Kimberley’s Saturday Breakfast with Eddie Williams, VY shared how she connects with her community whilst helping with their washing.

“Some people don’t have a washing machine at home, which makes it very hard,” she said.

VY also recognises the health and wellbeing factors associated with the services; “Clean clothes make you feel proud and happy.”

Bidyadanga is located in the northwest reaches of the Kimberleys, home to a population of 850 residents including Karajarri, Traditional Owners. The namesake of the coastal region translates locally to ‘emu watering hole’. In the early-mid 1900s, the region established a station and mission. This developed the community seen today, with residents from five language groups; Karajarri, Juwalinny, Mangala, Nyungamarta and Yulpartja. 

The Orange Sky service kicked off at the beginning of the wet season, when it can be particularly challenging to keep clothes and bedding, dry and clean. Since launching, VY and the Bidyadanga team have provided 940 loads of washing and 861 hours of connection across 80 shifts. The engagement in the service continues, with the team continuing to wash 10-20 loads of washing each day! 

Community Programs Officer in Bidyadanga, Ingrid Elmitt believes the laundry service provides “holistic value to the community,” including social and emotional wellbeing, environmental health, conversations with residents and improving people’s access to other family hub services.

“It’s not just about the clothes, it’s what it brings to the community.”

Orange Sky is grateful to work alongside the Bidyadanga community and our service partner BACLG Inc, in providing access to laundry facilities and non-judgmental yarns.

VY and Ingrid chatted with ABC Kimberley’s Eddie Williams on Saturday Breakfast about the laundry service in Bidyadanga and its impact in the community.

Say hello to Orange Sky’s biggest laundry truck!

Orange Sky has rebuilt our remote truck, ‘Rosco’, into our largest laundry vehicle to date! Now fitted with four washers and four Waru dryers, Rosco can carry the load of two of our regular laundry vans. The laundry truck was dreamed and built in just one day to support the growing need for our services in flood-affected communities across South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales. It is currently supporting families and businesses to get back on their feet by offering free laundry (and a chat!) from sun up to sun down.

Before Rosco became Orange Sky’s largest laundry truck, he was first the trusty vehicle that saw our team travel around Australia to connect with remote communities. The truck was named in 2021 as a homage to longstanding volunteer, the late Rob ‘Rosco’ Scoates, who helped Orange Sky deliver services to communities in need. The Rosco truck today continues to provide extensive support for people in need, much like Rob always did.

So, how did we dream up and build our biggest ever laundry truck in less than a day?

They say, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. When the natural flood disaster hit the Australian east coast in late February, Orange Sky worked quickly, deploying all available resources to support the community relief efforts. In addition to deploying three remote vehicles and one laundry trailer, all sporting three washers and three Waru Dryers, we knew more was needed to support the laundry needs of flood-affected areas.

Orange Sky’s Innovation Team got straight to the drawing board to upgrade the existing van, Rosco, into our biggest laundry van yet. Orange Sky Co-Founder Nic Marchesi said, “the situation was rapidly worsening and we knew many homes and people were without access to laundry. Our goal was to build our largest mobile laundry asset and get it out to local communities as quickly as possible to support those impacted.”

Rosco has also been built without a need for mains power. This allows Orange Sky to operate in high demand situations and avoid power challenges that are common during natural disasters.

From Tropical Cyclone Marcia in 2015, to the 2019 Bushfires and Covid lockdowns, we are committed to helping people affected by extreme weather conditions and other devastating events across the country.

Currently, Orange Sky is working closely with communities, local authorities and specialist organisations on the ground to determine where the biggest need for our free laundry services are. Rosco will continue to support communities with a high demand for washing, whether that’s through our community recovery efforts or through our regular services supporting everyday people doing it tough.

Learn more about innovations at Orange Sky

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The positive impact of our bright orange van in Wadeye

Ever wondered the challenges of doing washing in remote Australia? 

Have you ever needed to wash clothes by hand in a sink or bathtub? Maybe your washing machine was temporarily out of order. Maybe you were backpacking or camping. For many Australians living in remote regions, this can be a permanent reality and the only option. 

Washing machines tend to be unreliable, and they are not easy or affordable to come by.

That’s why Orange Sky is focused on providing reliable laundry solutions for remote communities.

In the north-western NT town of Wadeye, access to laundry services has been an ongoing challenge. Laura Crossfield operates Wadeye’s local safe house, One Tree Community Service, which had limited laundry facilities to support the needs of the community. “People would have to carry their blankets and clothes all the way to our fixed facility, and often there would be five people waiting to use a machine,” Laura said. 

Near the end of 2021, Orange Sky launched a mobile laundry van in Wadeye, marking our fourth remote service. Alongside service partner, Thamarrurr Development Corporation (TDC), we are contributing to improving the social and health outcomes for the community of Wadeye. In addition to free laundry, the Orange Sky service provides employment opportunities and seeks to create a safe space for genuine connection. 

Since the September launch, Wadeye has been one of our most utilised services across Australia. In just under six months, the local team has provided around 1,500 loads of washing and created space for close to 1,000 hours of genuine connection. While the community has been significantly affected by Covid in recent months, TDC have ensured the service could continue operating as often as possible.

Washing is not merely a chore and is much more than a hygiene solution. Laura understands the important role that laundry plays in people’s social and physical wellbeing. “If you’ve got clean clothes, you’re more likely to go to school… there shouldn’t be barriers to people having clean clothes.”

Founded as a mission in 1935, Wadeye has a diverse Aboriginal population from various clan groups. Laura commented that “though Wadeye has a large number of clan groups and families, the Orange Sky van brings everyone together for one common purpose”. The togetherness experienced on shift in Wadeye is an integral part of our service, alongside our local partner, TDC. 

The ‘T’ in TDC, is ‘Thamarrurr’, which means ‘everybody together’. Orange Sky is so grateful to be welcomed into the Wadeye community, to wash, yarn and connect together with TDC and Wadeye residents.

International Women's Day 2022

International Women’s Day (IWD) marks a special moment in time for the Orange Sky community, and this year hits particularly close to home for our organisation. The 2022 theme is ‘Break The Bias’; a movement encouraging us all to pause and hold space for purposeful conversations that inspire actions to stop generational stigmas, discrimination, and exclusion around women. 

Each and every day, Orange Sky strives to positively connect people doing it tough – regardless of who they are and what their living situation is – through non-judgemental and genuine conversations. We pull out our iconic six orange chairs, throw on a load of washing, and sit down for a chat with our friends.

IWD encompasses many things, but most importantly, it is a day committed to transforming communities, and changing the way people think, feel and respond to create a more inclusive space for the women of our world to thrive. 

This sentiment is infused into everything we do at Orange Sky, and the passionate people who make it happen. This year, we were lucky enough to hear from four amazing women at our IWD event. Together, through the power of technology, we were able to share in their wisdom, knowledge and stories, and walk away from the conversation feeling inspired and hopeful for the future. Here’s what they had to say…

Jenny Hutchens: Orange Sky, Chief Finance Officer

Jenny is a valued member of the Orange Sky family, having recently joined as the Chief Financial Officer. She is passionate about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and is particularly excited about the future growth and pathway Orange Sky is carving. 

“I have chosen to challenge biases in my personal and professional life. I strive in my personal life to role model behaviours and show that everyone should be treated equally, regardless of differences and uniquenesses. In my work life, recruitment in particular, is not based on gender or race, but on diversity of thought and bringing the best to the organisation.”

Kiri Brain: Turks Legal, Chief Executive Officer

Kiri is CEO of Turks Legal, one of Orange Sky’s incredibly valued partners. Kiri comes from a marketing background and has always had a passion for diversity – particularly in the workplace. 

“Breaking the bias to me reminds us that we can’t make a change unless we as individuals decide that we need to do something and take action. It is really important that we are aware of our own actions and consciously recognise that we are going to take steps to break the bias ”

Mary-Anne Cahill: Orange Sky Volunteer 

Mary-Anne has volunteered with our service on the Sunshine Coast for almost 6 years! She attributes her passion for education and helping others to her migrant background. Strength and high achievement were modelled by her family and community, which she brought to her 40 years of teaching and her volunteering with orange Sky.

“Every shift we meet female friends with the amazing resilience to put their feet on the ground each morning and go on for another day. This is something that needs to be celebrated. We need to consider and champion these women. We need to speak positively about their experiences and bravery in the face of overwhelming odds. I see our role as a social conduit between our friends and the wider community. We have an obligation to be their voice, at times when they have no voice.”

Abbey Allin: Thread Together, Marketing and Commercial Lead 

Abbey is the Marketing and Commercial Lead for Thread Together, an organisation that supports our friends experiencing homelessness through the provision of clothing donations.

“The most important piece of advice I have received was to be myself. I worked closely with engineers [in a previous role], where the bias was heavily steered towards men. However, I was told – you don’t have to be a man to get things done. This allowed me to confidently use my skills of understanding and empathy, to remain authentic to myself whilst being successful in the workplace. This advice came to me from a female manager who exuded calm in the face of adversity. An intelligent and empathetic leader who found solutions and took people on the journey with her.”

A world where women choose to challenge the biases and champion each other looks hopeful, but change cannot happen on its own. With the support, encouragement and passion from women like Abbey, Jenny, Kiri and Mary-Anne, together we can carve a world for future generations to thrive in.

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