From dinosaurs and Bob the Builder, to helping 25,000 people.

Before there were 31 orange vans, trucks and pods providing free laundry and shower services; there were two mates who wanted to support people doing it tough. We’re winding back the clock 19 years to look at how these two friends built a charity and a team that has helped thousands of people since the first wash 7 years ago on October 10, 2014. 

From a young age, Nic and Lucas shared passions that made them a good team. Both tackled problems with curiosity and a drive to help others – each in their own unique way.

A typical weekend for seven year old Nic Marchesi would likely include a project of some type. His parents, Claire and Paul, speak of how he forever encouraged the family to fix or build things. He would spend endless hours in the workshop learning skills from his Grandad, and to this day, still loves a weekend building project (whilst singing the only song he knows the words to; the Bob the Builder theme song.)

On the contrary, Lucas was always trying to figure out ‘how things worked’. He was the type of kid who was mesmerised by every sport at the Olympics, watching each manoeuvre and trying to understand the rules and winning strategy. He also loved spending time with his siblings and his favourite toy dinosaurs. While Nic may have replaced the dinosaur as his best mate, Lucas’ love of family networks and problem solving has certainly endured.

In their teenage years, both Nic and Lucas volunteered for their school’s food van and learnt the value of helping others. Each week, they would visit Wickham Park in Brisbane (where Orange Sky’s laundry and shower vans now operate twice a week), and provide a hot breakfast to people doing it tough.

“We really enjoyed doing something simple to change someone’s day. When we started building our laundry vans, people thought we were crazy,” said Lucas. “We kept being told that no one would wash their clothes in a van.”

Telling Nic and Lucas something couldn’t be done was all the motivation they needed. This ignited them to put trust at the forefront of Orange Sky’s operations. “We don’t trade in showers, laundry or conversations, Orange Sky trades in trust and connection,” said Lucas. “Each day volunteers must build trust with friends, to wash their valued belongings, shower in our van or share a conversation”.

Becoming leaders at a young age could be daunting for some, but Nic and Lucas have known joint leadership before Orange Sky as co-house captains at high school – they even once led their house to win a school choir competition (yes, we have follow up questions!). While the stakes and responsibility may be much higher these days, their methods of captaincy back then are akin to the leaders they are today.

“I’d prefer to be known as a good conductor, rather than leader. While the conductor is out the front and guiding the musicians, the talent of the musicians is the real show. Our Orange Sky team is the same. Though Lucas and I began Orange Sky, each day it is the work of our staff and volunteers, which is the real heartbeat,” Nic said.

So what does Orange Sky’s 7th birthday mean to Nic and Lucas?

“Seven years ago, Nic and I never thought Orange Sky would be where it is today, thanks to all of the amazing people who have made up the Orange Sky’s community since our first wash,” Lucas said.

“On World Homelessness Day, we are reminded that there are still so many people doing it tough. Tonight across Australia, 116,000 friends are experiencing homelessness and many more experiencing disconnection. We know there is so much more to be done and Orange Sky’s future involves finding innovative ways to help more people. We know we can’t do it without you. So, thank you for trusting and believing in us.”

Help us provide support to the 116,000 Australians experiencing homelessness by making a donation

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New research shines a light on homelessness in Australia

It’s no surprise that here at Orange Sky, we love a good chat. That’s why we’re starting conversations all over Australia as part of The Sudsy Challenge this September, shining a light on the issue of homelessness and helping to break down the stigmas. A recent YouGov study commissioned by Orange Sky as part of Homelessness Week (August 1-7) has revealed that a growing number of Australians are facing financial hardship and struggling to make ends meet. So let’s talk about it…

New research has revealed that one in five (20%) Australians have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives, and one in six (16%) Australians know someone who has.

At the time of the 2016 Census, one in 200 Australians were experiencing homelessness, but this new data exposes the vulnerability of many Australians in 2021 and the alarming rate of people who have experienced homelessness at some point in their life. 

Challenges over the past 12 months have had a massive impact on the economic and mental health of Australians, with close to half (43%) of respondents revealing they experienced financial and social difficulties at least once a year, including being unable to pay for essentials such as rent, mortgage, bills, or food and many feeling too ashamed to ask for help or seek support.

The study also exposed a worrying trend as the generational experience of homelessness increases. 

• 46% of Millennials have experienced or know someone who has experienced homelessness, compared to 38% of Gen X and 25% of Baby Boomers.
• Millennials and Gen X are also more likely than Baby Boomers to say they struggle at least once a month to make ends meet.

Orange Sky supports people who find themselves doing it tough by providing a safe and welcoming place on shift to sit down and connect. We know that homelessness is a complex issue, and we don’t have all the answers, but we aim to positively connect people through clean laundry, a warm shower and genuine conversation. From many years sitting around our orange chairs on shift, we’ve learnt just how easily a simple conversation can impact a person’s life.

Now in its third year, The Sudsy Challenge aims to wash away the stigmas surrounding homelessness by challenging Australians to wear the same clothes for three days to spark conversations about homelessness and help support the increasing number of highly vulnerable and at-risk Australians.

Sign Up for The Sudsy Challenge

After the events of 2020, Co-Founder Nic Marchesi OAM said The Sudsy Challenge highlights that while clean clothes can make a world of difference in someone’s life, the conversation and connection is what drives Orange Sky.

“The last year has been a reminder to us all how important human connection is. It can be taken away from in a blink of an eye, but for our friends on the street, that’s a reality every day,” he said.

Participants can take part in The 2021 Sudsy Challenge over three weekends in September, or any three days in September, October and November.

Co-Founder Lucas Patchett OAM said The Sudsy Challenge is a fun and easy way for participants to step out of their comfort zone and support thousands of Australians experiencing homelessness as well as the many more struggling to make ends meet every week.

“We’ve learnt from speaking to many friends who use our service over the years that homelessness can really happen to anyone,” he said.

“It can take just one small turn of events and without the right support network in place, you can easily find yourself doing it tough on the street.”

Learn more or get involved in The Sudsy Challenge

Visit the website

A sense of home in a remote community

Over the past three months, I was fortunate enough to travel on the Remote Venture with Orange Sky. Throughout this time, we connected with 25 remote communities across central and northern Australia to learn about laundry access and community priorities. It was here that I learned of the subjective and special essence of ‘home’.

I was in Northern Territory’s central desert, driving our truck ‘Rosco’, to a new shift at a Town Camp in Alice Springs. Though I was a long way from home, the hills surrounding Alice brought me a sense of peace. Since I was a small child, exploring hills and mountains has been my happy place. Maybe it’s because I’m short, so I’m forever trying to climb things to feel free or get a better perspective of the world around me. I revelled in warmth at the sense of home I felt within this familiar landscape.

We were visiting this particular community where many washing machines had broken in homes due to over use. As there was no one locally able to fix them, the community were left without laundry options. With this in mind, we were eager to wash as much as we could. Arriving at a new location, we know that a successful shift relies heavily on trust. It just takes one person to trust us enough to sit on an orange chair or put their belongings in the machine to build community faith in us.

As we set up, a lady approached me with her crying baby in arms.

“Do you mob have any ice cream? My little girl saw your truck and would like one”, she asked me.

I giggled slightly and told her that our truck actually had washing machines and dryers onboard. I sympathised that I sincerely wished I was driving an ice cream truck too and offered whether she had any laundry for us instead. Her eyes lit up.

“No way! You have washing machines in here? How much for a wash?”, she asked.

“The washing is free… but it might cost you a yarn”, I responded.

“I’ll be back”.

When Cassandra returned, she brought a car filled with blankets and clothes, put them in the washers and sat with me on an orange chair. Cassandra was about the same age as me – in her mid-twenties, and was staying in Alice with an extended family member. She missed her Country, which was a few hours west, but she spoke of how grateful she was to have a place to live where she and her child felt welcomed.

I realised that both Cassandra and I were away from home. And while this was neither of our hometowns, we each felt the peace and comfort of home here. For Cassandra, the love and support of kinship brought her consistent joy here. For me, the familiarity of sun-soaked hills made me feel at home. And as Cassandra’s little girl grinned at me with a popsicle in her mouth, home appeared to be the place where her mum and the ice cream were.

‘Homelessness’ in remote communities takes different forms than metropolitan areas. Rather than rough sleeping or living in vehicles, in the remote landscape, staying with relatives is common. Limited housing options along with generational displacement and trauma can result in overcrowding. However, cultural and kinship ties can also be a driving factor in large families living under the same roof. There is a lot that can be learned from the beauty of this kinship and sense of duty to one another among communities. Much like Cassandra’s story, it was clear that family do not leave one another behind. Despite this, there can be health and wellness implications of overcrowding. It was evident that access to laundry facilities is extraordinarily difficult. The cost of purchasing a machine in remote areas is significantly higher, along with limited service support for machine faults. After visiting 25 communities, I am more passionate than ever to support Orange Sky services in remote communities.

That’s why this year I am dedicating my Sudsy Challenge to friends like Cassandra in remote communities. These moments with hundreds of incredible people I met, reiterated the need for laundry services and the power of a conversation. My advice to anyone thinking of embarking on the Sudsy Challenge is to never underestimate how much connection, learning, and growth can occur while we share with one another. Even if you disappoint people by not being an ice cream truck driver.

Join Jess as she takes on The Sudsy Challenge this September! 

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What home means to me

Homelessness Week (August 1-7) aims to raise awareness of the impact of homelessness across the country. So, let’s talk about it…

According to the 2016 Census, there are over 116,000 people experiencing homelessness in Australia. This week at Orange Sky, we’re reflecting on the idea of a ‘home’ – we know it means something different to everyone, especially our friends, so we asked our team to think about where they feel most at home and why.

Here’s James from the Volaby Team…

When I was growing up, my concept of a home was something that was in flux fairly regularly. Having moved to three different countries and lived in many homes by the time I was 13, I think they all started to blend together and I am certain I have superimposed memories of the various places overlapping at this point. 

Later when I finished high school and took off to the US on my next adventure, that concept changed yet again. Dormitories, share-houses and sleeping on couches when my minimum wage job couldn’t pay the bills. I think that my idea of home had to be ‘where you are right now’ so that I could try to make that place as comfortable as possible. Eventually I couldn’t do this any more, so it was time to go back to Australia and change that concept again.

Home to me is more than just a roof over my head and a place to sleep at night; it is my loved ones, and our collective hopes, dreams and shared experiences. I have experienced many different living situations from large family homes to couch surfing halfway across the world when things were a bit tougher. No matter the situation, I count myself extremely lucky as I have always had my family and loved ones, which is what I think I have always equated to “home”. I knew that I had that safety net if things got too tough, which is something that I will be eternally grateful for.

Now that I am a bit older and have my family, the place that I feel most at home is when I am with them. I don’t think it would matter where we lived, as long as we were together, sharing laughs and supporting each other. I suppose it is the place where I feel most like myself.

When I think about Homelessness Week and the focus it puts on everyone’s needs to have a place to call home, I realise that I am in such a privileged position to think about home as more than just a roof over my head meeting my basic needs for shelter. Having someone to talk to, someone glad to see you when you get there, and a feeling of belonging when you arrive are key to people feeling like they aren’t alone, and that someone cares.

That’s why the most important part of Orange Sky’s service is not the washing machines or dryers – it’s our six orange chairs, which are pulled out at every single shift. Through genuine and non-judgemental conversation, our volunteers provide a welcoming and supportive space for friends – a space where they can feel like they belong. 

How can you get involved and help make an impact this Homelessness Week?

Sign up for The Sudsy Challenge! Help us wash away the stigmas surrounding homelessness by keeping your kit on for three days, talking about it with those around you and raising funds and awareness to support our friends doing it tough. Learn more at

Take on The Sudsy Challenge!

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Our big plans for bigger impact

Every July, at the end of the financial year, we look back on the past 12 months at Orange Sky. It’s always interesting to reflect on all that’s happened and how far we’ve come.

Normally, I’d be telling you about the key milestones we hit, new communities we’re supporting, or vans that we’ve built – but this past year looked a little different.

The pandemic forced us to stop, reset and revise how we operate. The way we delivered our services changed the day we paused our shifts last March. And although everything looks different in a COVID-19 world, one thing has remained the same – conversations on orange chairs between friends and volunteers.

That’s why our focus for the past 12 months has been about exactly that – continuing to deliver the greatest impact and support for our friends doing it tough.

How did we do this?

Firstly, we strengthened our health and safety systems to enable us to continue operating our free laundry and shower services throughout the pandemic, whilst ensuring the safety of our community.

We evolved our volunteer and service provider model, and now have more than 2,000 volunteers supporting our mission, as well as many new service providers that we operate alongside.

We launched our five year strategy, with plans for how Orange Sky will positively connect communities from now through till 2025. Our main goal by the year 2025 is to support more than 40,000 people (tripling our impact) and doing it twice as efficiently. This means more people helped, more conversations with friends and more incredible supporters enabling this magic to happen.

Most importantly though, over the last 12 months, we supported more than 13,700 people through 33,943 loads of laundry, 9,071 showers and 64,353 hours of genuine conversation (delivered across 8,723 shifts).

We might not have added any new bright orange vans or services to our Orange Sky family, but we’re proud that we’ve been able to continue supporting friends during some of the toughest times in our (nearly) seven year history.

So what does the next 12 months look like for us?

Well, for starters, we want to continue growing our impact. We’re hoping to positively connect 22,400 people by June 2022 – which means we want to deliver 1,400 shifts every month.

Having recently completed our Remote Venture Trip, we’re looking to expand our reach across Australia with a focus on remote communities – more to come on this soon!

We also want to focus on looking after the people who look after our friends, by providing our volunteers with additional training, development and resources. This will not only ensure the health and safety of our community, but will also enable more shifts to operate. A key part of this will be giving some ‘TLC’ to our vans that are starting to get on in age.

We will continue building new innovations through Team Delta to enable us to help more friends and continue building a more efficient and sustainable organisation. This includes growing Volaby – our volunteer management software solution that we’ve developed for the not-for-profit sector – and increasing the number of charity partners using the product.

Lastly, we are looking to improve our sustainability, as well as our environmental and social policies (orange is the new green!). Watch this space for some exciting developments on more energy efficient vehicles and a more connected Orange Sky community.

We’re incredibly excited for what the next 12 months have in store for Orange Sky. Even though the pandemic continues to impact all our lives, we’re grateful for the opportunity to be out there connecting with friends through genuine and non-judgemental conversation. 

I have been lucky enough to spend some time on a number of different shifts over the last couple of months and have been blown away by the incredible connections that happen every day of the week.

Recently I headed out to a cold evening shift at a community centre in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. I had never been there before and am always excited to experience a new shift. When I arrived, the volunteers were set up, there were a few loads of washing in the machine and most of the friends were grabbing a meal inside. I noticed an AFL ball sitting on one of the chairs, but didn’t give it much of a thought. 

I started chatting to the volunteers and a few people around the van, including a friend named Jane*. Jane is a mum of five who struggles week-to-week to pay bills, so she comes along to this shift to have a meal and to do her washing. Jane also loves a chat. It was around this point I noticed the ball was being kicked behind the van, but I couldn’t see who was playing. 

A few of Jane’s kids were a bit shy and remained in her van, however she mentioned that her eldest daughter loved coming to shift every week, kicking the footy after dinner and chatting to the volunteers. Jane told me that her daughter’s connection with one particular volunteer, Tessa, was something she spoke about long after they left shift. It was a moment that reminded me of the power of connections that are formed between everyday people – some of who are wearing an Orange Sky shirt, and some who aren’t. 

*Name has been changed

Support Orange Sky’s plans for greater impact over the 12 months 

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How We Created The Laundry Pod

The Idea

In its short history, Orange Sky has become known for its imagination and innovation. And at the core of every piece of innovation is always a very simple, yet crazy idea.

The origins of this particular idea was no different from ones which preceded it, despite it being hand-scribbled on a QANTAS travel sickness bag by our Co-Founder, Nic.

It was mid-2019 (before phrases like ‘pandemic’ and ‘social distancing’ had become part of our vocabulary) when Nic hopped off a flight and told me that he had an idea. He pulled a drawing out of his back pocket and started to explain what he had scribbled down; a fixed box-like structure that would house three washers, three dryers, and six orange chairs.

The Why

At this point in time, Orange Sky was operating 30 vans across Australia and New Zealand. The beauty of our vans is that they can cover large regions to help as many friends as possible, but we’d come to understand that in smaller areas, a van with an on-board generator was an unnecessary resource when our shift locations were within walking distance apart. Nic’s idea was to explore what a reduced-cost operational model looked like for Orange Sky, with the vision of being more accessible to operate in less-populated regions more efficiently and with simplified maintenance demands.

The Development

We got to work quickly on what we had named the ‘Laundry Pod’. I drew up some rough plans for us to work from, and we built a prototype unit in one day. The purpose of the prototype was to give us an idea of the pod’s spatial requirements, as well as an understanding of how we could best design our electrical and plumbing infrastructure. Once our prototype was built and reviewed, we started to get serious about the idea and began to engage relevant consultants and manufacturers to take the idea to the next level.

The Build

Working in collaboration with CSM Service Bodies, we designed and manufactured three custom-made cabinet-like structures, which would soon become our first three laundry pods. The completed cabinets were delivered to Orange Sky’s headquarters (HQ), and our team got to work on installing the systems and infrastructure into the pods that provides power, water, and liquid detergent to the washing machines and dryers. The fit out took about one day per pod, which is significantly less than the time it takes to fit out one of our vans. Soon after the pods were built and tested, it was time for the first pod to leave HQ and make its way up to its new home in Sarina, on the outskirts of Mackay, Queensland.

The first pod in Sarina has now been in operation for nearly 12 months, and a second pod has been installed in a central location in Mackay. We’ve also recently partnered with Beddown in Brisbane for an eight week pilot to provide friends (who are using Beddown’s services) with access to free laundry and conversation through the use of our laundry pod. 

It’s been amazing to see how a simple idea has progressed into something that is now making a real impact in the community. That’s why innovation has, and always will be, part of our DNA at Orange Sky.

If you have an idea you think we should explore or a location that you think a pod could work, we’d love to hear from you! 

Get In Touch

The Launch of Team Delta

It’s been a wild journey as one of Orange Sky’s Co-Founders since 2014. I’ve survived many a broken-down washing machine, watched our services grow and develop, and helped lead us through a pandemic. We’re now sharpening our focus and direction to look to the future as we strive to deliver on our mission to positively connect more people.

In September 2020 after a whirlwind year, we launched our five-year strategy to our internal team. This was co-developed with the Senior Leadership Team and Board’s vision to ‘help more people, with more resilient revenue streams whilst still finding ways to innovate and support the community.’ We’re currently helping 13,300 people and set a new goal to help 40,000 people experiencing homelessness by 2025.

One of the themes to come out of the strategy development was how innovation runs through everything we do. It has, and always should be part of our DNA. From building our very first van ‘Sudsy’, to upgrading our laundry vans to include shower capability, to our work in remote communities and the launch of Volaby – we are constantly looking for ways to innovate and help more people in our community.

When Nic and I first started Orange Sky, we had no idea about budgets, impact or scalability, but we sure are thankful that we gave it a go anyway. Six and a half years after our very first wash, we’re launching an exciting initiative that will support that very idea of ‘giving things a crack’. Team Delta – meaning an alternative form of change – is about leaning into our capacity to innovate and giving things a go that have potential to make a difference. With strong and simple principles, vision and methodology, we are excited to discover the next positive connection that we can make.

As part of this change, I am excited to share that I will be stepping into the role of CEO, while Nic will be moving to the newly created position of Chief Delta Officer (CDO), leading Orange Sky’s innovation stream and enabling new projects to be developed and delivered to support more people doing it tough.

This does not change our mission to positively connect communities; it means we will be working hard to find more efficient and innovative ways to grow and connect with our community.

The team has already delivered some great wins to help more people doing it tough, including a focused sprint on how we can start new shifts more effectively, connecting our data sources to ensure we’re using data to better inform our decision making, and – just last week – the launch of our remote venture visiting 20 communities across South Australia, Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland.

My belief is that everyone at Orange Sky can be an innovator from our team at HQ, to our volunteers, friends and supporters. Ideas can come from anywhere; for us, the key to moving forward is how to take it from an idea into action and give it the time and space to grow and mature to drive impact. I am excited to have Nic more focused on this to help us as organisation into the future and we can’t wait to share with you the developments that we’re making.

If you have any thoughts, questions or feedback, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Meet the next generation of innovators at Orange Sky 

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Work and Life Lessons from a (Really) Tired Mum

Reflecting on the last twelve months, I find myself in an entirely different world, and not just because of the pandemic. Like so many others, I spend my days juggling work, home, study and trying to find time for myself.

In January 2020, I welcomed my beautiful daughter, Faye, into the world. I was never sure I wanted children of my own. I was focused on my career, and I couldn’t see how I would manage both. Yet, here I was as a first time mum and loving every second.

As a relatively young organisation, Faye was the first Orange Sky employee baby. Ironically, in a stand-alone HR role, I was responsible for developing the Parental Leave Policy. I love my job and I was excited, albeit nervous, to return to work after five months of parental leave. I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by the most incredible team of people – a team who inspires each other to bring their best every day. I’d kept in touch throughout my leave, and had agreed with my manager to come back part time at four days a week. I arranged daycare, labelled all my daughter’s clothes and was ready to return to work. Easy, right?

Not easy.

Like so many women before me, I found those first few months back at work to be the hardest of my life. The ‘mum guilt’ for leaving my five-month old baby in daycare was crippling. I found a new burst of ambition and found myself laser focused on being a strong female role model for my daughter, but I was exhausted and convinced I had to prove to everyone around me that I could still be a high-performing professional. I felt like I’d lost my identity.

I’m still not sure I have all the answers, but here’re a few lessons I’ve learnt along the way….

Jess is pictured on the right with colleague and work wife, Chelsea. 

1. Set your boundaries.

I’ve always resented the concept of work-life balance. My mind conjured up an image of a seesaw where the only way to balance work and life was to only give a portion of yourself to each, and I saw that as a bad thing. Turns out, it’s not so bad.

Setting clear boundaries has been so important for me. Things like switching off notifications after work or being offered the flexibility to work from home have helped me bring the best version of myself – whether that be as a mum or an employee.

2. Find your girl gang. Or any gang, really. Find your people.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and well… it does. Building your network of family, friends and supportive work colleagues takes time, but it’s okay to ask for help and advice. I’ve found an incredible connection with colleagues at Orange Sky who have tiny humans of their own, and sometimes a five minute chat about the woes of a teething baby is just what I need.

3. Be kind to yourself.

You don’t have to do it all. You can say no to that social event in favour of staying home, and you can ask for flexibility. There is always time to achieve your goals – but ask yourself if the time is right for you.

Learning to say ‘no’ and ‘not now’ has given me balance, and made me a far better mum and colleague.

I’m still new at juggling the responsibilities of parenthood and professional life, but I know society still has a way to go. Having a child and growing a family is one of the most natural things in the world, yet today, women are retiring with 47% less superannuation than men. The gender pay gap and women taking time out of the workforce due to caring responsibilities are cited as barriers to gender wealth equality.

So, I ask anyone who finds themselves working alongside parents – whether they be new parents returning to work or otherwise – to show a little kindness and empathy. There will be times we arrive to work frazzled from lack of sleep or with a spot of nappy cream on our shirts, but teams are stronger when we make space for everyone at the table. Building a culture of flexibility and inclusivity where all voices can be heard has never been so important.

Interested in hearing more from inspiring women at Orange Sky? 

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One Year On Since Pausing Our Shifts

Orange Sky’s Co-Founder, Lucas looks back on the past 12 months since the beginning of the pandemic – a time in our history that we’ll never forget.

There have been many days in this crazy Orange Sky journey that I will remember forever; some the happiest and others the most challenging of my life. Monday, March 23 is one of the latter.

That was the day we pressed pause on all of our metro and regional services across Australia and New Zealand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It almost felt surreal; five and a half years of building relationships and trust with our friends was seemingly undone by an invisible enemy in just a few short weeks.

Letting people down is something that Nic and I have always taken incredibly seriously. It’s what drove us to get our first ever laundry van, Sudsy up and running in just three days. It took two failed attempts before we were able to support our very first friend, Jordan.

(You can learn more about Jordan’s story here)

That same fear of letting people down has also fuelled our recovery in a COVID-19 world.

It’s hard to grapple with the idea of friends not being able to bring their washing to shift, volunteers not having a way to give their time, and supporters not being able to see their impact in the community. The second we paused shifts, we knew we needed to innovate and find ways to help our friends.

One year on, our service might not look the same as it did pre-COVID, but that unwavering commitment to support our community remains unchanged. From that very first shift back just two weeks after pausing our services, we’re now operating more than 200 shifts a week across Australia.

A few weeks ago, I was on shift in St Kilda, Melbourne – my first interstate visit since before the pandemic. As the sun set over St Kilda beach, I watched as our mission to positively connect communities was brought to life through many showers and loads of washing, conversations on our six orange chairs, and connection with our service provider partners. March 23 will go down as one of the toughest days in our history, but it’s moments like this on shift when I’m reminded of exactly why Orange Sky exists.

Everyone has their own story and experience of what the past 12 months have been like, and I wanted to share some of those with you today from our HQ team.

“Working in the not-for-profit space for the past 10 years and volunteering well beyond that, I have never experienced a year quite like the one we’ve just had. It’s amazing to think that 12 months ago to the day, we made the difficult decision to turn off the Orange Sky engines. In hindsight, that was the easy part. Getting the washing spinning once again was a challenge, and we couldn’t have done it without our many partners and dedicated volunteers. Words such as positivity, energy and resilience describe the approach led by our HQ and volunteer teams and I am so proud for us to come out the other end a much stronger organisation.” – Dan, Program Manager (Friends and Volunteers)

“I’ve never been challenged more than I have in the past 12 months. It’s been a year since I’ve left Perth, and I usually travel quite a lot, so it’s been interesting in that respect. In the community impact space, as horrible as the past year has been for so many, it’s been an interesting time as we’ve made a lot of new relationships that have resulted in better collaborations and shift locations.” – Lisa (Program Manager, Community Impact)

“2020 was by all accounts, a very different year for many people mostly due to the pandemic. While our metro and regional services were affected by restrictions, our remote services were able to continue operating right throughout the year. Thankfully, our three communities remained COVID-free and our employees were able to continue operating laundry shifts and supporting the local community with very important social connection.” – Judith, Program Manager (Remote and Indigenous Services)

“When COVID-19 first hit our shores, we were very uncertain about the impact the pandemic would have on our ability to raise the funds required to keep our vans on the road and supporting our friends. Our incredible donors, and corporate and philanthropic partners responded so generously, with many reaching out to us to offer assistance. It’s thanks to our community that we were able to get back out on the road so quickly to support our friends doing it tough.” –  Michaela, Grants and Individual Giving Manager

International Women's Day at Orange Sky

I’m lucky enough to be the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) here at Orange Sky.  I am incredibly passionate about supporting women in their careers and navigating the obstacles that will inevitably be thrown their ways – ranging from gender bias through to Mums returning to the workplace and learning how to balance family and work; all experiences I’ve had in my career.

We are moving to a very exciting time in history where the world now ‘expects’ equity, diversity and inclusion. The world notices its absence and celebrates its presence.

It’s Inclusion Month here at Orange Sky, which encompasses many things; diversity of race, gender, ethnicity, religion and ability. This week, in line with International Women’s Day (IWD), we’re focusing specifically on gender. The the theme for IWD 2021 is #ChoosetoChallenge, which is about creating a more inclusive world by celebrating women’s achievements and calling out gender inequality.

As a society, we’ve got a long way to go to in addressing inequality on a number of levels. Here in Australia:

– There’s a gender pay gap of 13.4%;
– Of the 25 CEOs who were appointed to ASX200 companies in 2020, only one was a woman; and
– 90% of all board members are of Anglo Saxon descent.

There’s a strong case for change, and a big part of creating this wave of change is through sharing knowledge, celebrating success and lifting others up.

As part of our #IWD2021 event at Orange Sky HQ, we were lucky enough to hear from four amazing women who are doing incredible things in their own different ways. It was an empowering conversation covering how they’ve chosen to challenge gender norms in their work and personal lives, career obstacles and the role of both female and male mentors in their lives.

We asked each of them why it’s important to celebrate women, and here’s what they had to say…

Lyndi Hawkings-Guy | Senior Lawyer, Legal Aid QLD

“When I thought about this question, I always go straight to the gender equality timeline and all the amazing achievements like voting rights and reproductive freedom – there’s just so much in there. And I thought, that’s why we have to celebrate, because men still have such immense power and social capital in our society that we have to claw back all of those rights that men take for granted. That’s why I think it’s so important to celebrate every year what we’ve achieved.”

Kym Rae | Associate Professor & Mater Foundation Researcher

“As part of our research work, we had a donor come to us a few years back. She said ‘I really want to understand what happens between women when they get into motherhood; do they stop learning or do they choose engage back in learning again? I’d really like to understand this for Indigenous women who often have families earlier in life or are living in remote Indigenous communities. Is there a point in a woman’s life where they can pick up education again?’

We did this work in a number of communities across NSW, and it was absolutely incredible to listen to these beautiful Indigenous women of all ages, from 16 right through to Elders in the community, and hear the deep tragedies that their communities had suffered over the years. To hear kids in high school say ‘well there are no Aboriginal role models. In my town, there’s nobody who has a job that I would want or is a boss. Why would would I go to university? It’s not going to change anything. I still want to stay or come back on country, and there’s no jobs here for someone like me.’

These women had no career aspirations, because they had never seen it in their communities. And so I think for us as women, we need to be celebrating women every single day – one, for the privilege that we have had to be educated, but also to be role models for the women who haven’t had that privilege.”

Peta Irvine | CEO, Local Government Managers Australia

“We are all so busy. We’re doing a million things, and we don’t actually stop and say ‘hey wow, I’ve just moved on from whatever this is’ – it might be a task, it might be a job, it might be a life stage – and say, ‘I’ve done this, congratulations, and pat myself on the back.’ We just move on to the next thing, and I think women are probably more guilty of this than men. So that celebration is a reflection point and a gratitude point, and a pat on the back for yourself that we actually sometimes need.”

Chenoa Master | Diamond Spirit and Inclusion Lead at Netball QLD

“It comes down to the belief that, ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it’. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women feel that they have to choose between having culture at home on country, or going out alone to chase a career. Similarly, women in the workplace feel a pull between having a family and pursuing their careers. We shouldn’t have to choose; we should be championing womens’ successes to build them up.

My manager and I spoke recently about the late Sir Ken Robinson and a video that came out to honour him; it speaks about your ‘what if’.

What if the world was perfect?

What if we lived in a world that was free from bias and we all felt like we belonged?

Imagine if we celebrated women, how many more women would we have in careers, workplaces and positions of influence to share knowledge – what would our society look like?”

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