Washing in Wadeye

Located in the Northern Territory’s Western top end, Wadeye is home to Orange Sky’s fourth remote community service, where we launched our laundry truck in September 2021. For over two years, we have been grateful to support Wadeye’s culturally abundant and diverse community alongside our partner, Thamarrurr Development Corporation (TDC), building impact through free laundry, local employment and local partnerships.

Since 2020, our services in remote communities have grown from three to 13 locations, as a result of the demand for ongoing expansion and longer-term presence. Higher purchasing costs and limited service support mean that it is extremely difficult to access reliable laundry facilities, resulting in increased critical health issues such as scabies, bedsores and Rheumatic Heart Disease. Through providing access to essential health hardware which helps provide clean bedding and clothing, Orange Sky helps to reduce negative health outcomes in these communities. 

Our remote services are some of our most utilised in the country, with Wadeye’s wash numbers overtaking those in metro Sydney and Melbourne services, which operate multiple vans at once. To meet the increased demand we set up a second van, which our Remote Program Manager Jude visited last December.

It’s really valuable to be able to respond to the extraordinary need in Wadeye and to build on our partnership with Thamarrurr Development Corporation (TDC). We have incredible feedback from TDC and the community about the impact created with the van” – Jude, Remote Program Manager.

Our service expansion would not be possible without the ongoing support from our amazing partner employees (from L to R) Sophia, Terese and Gabriella (supervisor) – thank you for keeping our washers turning and conversation flowing in the community!

Learn more about our remote services

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Pick Up Drop Off Laundry, an Orange Sky Innovation Initiative

From our research and speaking with people doing it tough, we know there are some key barriers that prevent people who are in need of free laundry and connection from using our service. These most notably being distance, accessibility, time commitments and dependants.

Orange Sky is trialling a new service model where we support families who are in motels as emergency accommodation. These motels provide a safe space to sleep but often don’t have access to laundry and connection, which can play an important part in the transition from emergency accommodation back into stable housing.

The new ‘Pick Up, Drop Off’ model will see Orange Sky’s already known and trusted service reimagined – volunteers will attend a location convenient to friends, such as a place of residence, and stay for a chat. This model addresses barriers of travel and time while also ensuring friends can care for dependents in a safe location.  

We have been able to pilot this model at a local Brisbane motel thanks to the support of an organisation who houses families temporarily. This organisation is doing incredible work for families who are transitioning to permanent housing, and Orange Sky is delighted to work alongside them to take a load off for residents. Whilst the conversations are flowing, our volunteers split into teams to wash the items at a nearby location and return them to the shift.

By using a local laundromat we can get through large amounts of washing in a short period of time (1.5 hours for 32 loads). This also allows us to scale faster in areas with limited van availability or access.

“It was amazing to see all the families interacting with each other and children playing together, a real sense of community, and the families using the services provided for them,” – Motel Manager.

“I have been washing the kids’ uniforms in the bath tub for weeks,” – Father of four.

Innovation is part of our DNA at Orange Sky and continues to be the driving force behind our five year strategy. Our target is to triple our impact by 2025 whilst exploring new and improved ways to help more people in the community doing it tough.

Find out more about how Orange Sky uses the power of innovation to help more friends in need  

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How the power of a conversation brought Cass and Casey together

Do you know that feeling when you meet someone for the first time and you just instantly connect with them? The feeling where you just want to continue speaking with them and learning more about them? Well, that is the exact feeling I got when I met Orange Sky friend Cass out on shift a few months ago.

My name is Casey, and as part of my role in the marketing team here at Orange Sky, I have the pleasure of meeting incredible people – like Cass – out on shift and hearing their stories.

I met Cass on a Wednesday morning on the Sunshine Coast. When I first arrived to shift, Cass was speaking with Jan, one of the volunteers who she regularly chats with. Cass was showing Jan some of her artwork that she had created for The Salvation Army as a gift. Cass was holding a number of stones in her hand that she had delicately painted on that shared the beautiful words of ‘hope’, ‘faith’ and ‘love’. I could see the passion and happiness in Cass’s face as she talked about her artwork. As soon as I entered the conversation, a complete stranger, Cass embraced me with a kind, welcoming smile and began proudly showing me her artwork and explaining the finishing touches she was to make.

As Jan busily began doing loads of laundry and welcoming other friends onto shift, I sat down and chatted with Cass some more. I began to learn that Cass has lived in her van for more than two years. Two years without her children. Two years without her family surrounding her. Two years without a safe and stable place to call home. 

As I sat and spoke with Cass, I learned that just recently before she had no option but to move out of her home and begin living in her van, Cass was diagnosed with tonsil cancer and underwent treatment. Cass was so brave to share her story with me, but the thing that astounded me most was Cass’ fun-loving, charismatic and optimistic personality. Although she has overcome many challenges, and still faces many challenges ahead, she was kind, thoughtful and keen for a cheerful conversation full of laughs.

Cass asked me about myself; she wanted to get to know me and couldn’t express her gratitude enough for how much the Orange Sky service and the incredible team of volunteers had supported her whilst she currently finds herself in a really tough situation.

Unfortunately, Cass’s story isn’t unlike many stories I have heard whilst working at Orange Sky. What I love about my job is meeting friends like Cass – seeing their determination and resilience is inspiring. Cass was a hard-working single mum – just like my own beautiful mother – but encountered a few turns of bad luck. As Cass shared with me, she has now found herself in a situation that she never thought she would be in – a story that’s more common than you think. 

For Cass, one thing that gets her through and helps her in her dark days is art. Cass hopes to share her love and passion for art with her community. Cass has dreams of creating a mobile art studio from her van – her smile and energy whilst talking about her visions of her art studio was infectious. I just wish I knew how to draw anything other than some shocking stick figures and a weird looking dog! Who knows, maybe Cass can teach me a few things (if she has the patience)…

I connect with Cass regularly. Whenever I am on the Sunshine Coast, I stop by Cass’ shift to check-in and have a laugh. She brightens up the shift and is a joy to be around.

The 2021 Census tells us that 122,000 Australians are experiencing homelessness, but the reality is that so many more people are doing it tough and in need of support. People like Cass who have no other way of having their clothes cleaned, or people who feel isolated or disconnected from their community and come to Orange Sky simply for the connection and conversation provided by our volunteers. People like Cass aren’t a number or a homelessness statistic to us. They are our friends; we get to know them and learn more about them, and be there for them in a simple yet powerful way. I am grateful for my job and the people my role here has allowed me to meet and connect with. It reminds me to be grateful for what I have and to never judge someone based on their situation. 

If you want to hear more about Cass’s story, you can watch this video, and if you want to check out some of Cass’s artwork, be sure to follow her on socials @nozones_mobile_art_studio

Find out how you can help positively connect some of the 122,494 Australians doing it tough.

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Orange Sky’s Youngest Philanthropist Making a Huge Impact For Our Friends

Every day across Australia hundreds of Orange Sky vans pull up beside our service providers across the country, our passionate volunteers pull on a bright orange shirt and six orange chairs are placed, ready for genuine conversations. 

It’s a simple formula, but one that creates loads of impact for our friends doing it tough. However, Orange Sky’s service is not complete without our community of generous supporters who are the fuel that powers each wash, shower and conversation. 

On National Philanthropy Day, we want to take the opportunity to celebrate their contributions, big or small, which allows us to achieve our goal of positively connecting  40,000 people across Australia and New Zealand by 2025.

Since Orange Sky’s first wash back in 2014, our co-founder and CEO Lucas Patchett has seen first hand the impact our generous Philanthropists can have on the growth of our service….

“Orange Sky would not be here without the incredible, continued support and commitment we receive from our philanthropic community. Philanthropy giving allows us to be proactive and to forward plan however also reactive and respond to crises and needs as they change.

In the past nine years, I’ve been lucky enough to interact with philanthropists from all walks of life. It is always humbling to hear their stories and understand why it is so important for them to give back to the community. 

A couple of weeks ago, I went and visited the Quinn family, who have been supporting Orange Sky for the past couple of years. With a focus on getting the next generation of the family involved in philanthropy, their youngest, Charlie, is getting hands on and asking the big questions, like how Orange Sky are working to better the planet. It’s incredible to see the next generation of philanthropists come through and show their passion for making an impact in the lives of others. 

Charlie and I even had the opportunity to sit in one of our vans for a chat….” – Lucas Patchett, Orange Sky Founder and CEO. 

I want to make the world a better place! I heard about Orange Sky from my brother who learnt about it at school. I love the vans and love helping people so it was perfect! – Charlie. 

Charlie is just one example of the power of connection in action and we are so grateful for young people like him in our community who are passionate about making the world a better place for our friends doing it tough.

Find out how you can help positively connect some of the 122,494 Australians doing it tough.

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A simple service with a huge difference this holiday season

The holiday season is a special time of year when families and friends gather to connect, reflect and look ahead to the future. For many, the holiday season provides a much-needed opportunity to pause and appreciate the simple pleasures of life. However amid the twinkling lights and joyful festivities are stories of disconnect and isolation experienced by our friends doing it tough. 

Their stories are unique, but often too common – especially over the holiday period. There’s no good time of year to be experiencing homelessness, but it’s particularly rough when you see other people celebrating and having family holidays – and you’re not even safe or comfortable. 

We can’t solve homelessness alone, but we know that a place for connection and a listening ear can make the world of difference for someone doing it tough. 

Orange Sky is a non-profit that provides a simple, yet essential service that supports people who are experiencing homelessness or hardship through access to free laundry, warm showers and most importantly genuine, non-judgemental conversation. Our focus is on creating a safe, positive and supportive environment for people doing it tough, helping to ease their sense of isolation and disconnection from the community. 

From sitting down on our orange chairs and chatting with friends, we’ve learnt that access to clean laundry services is what commonly brings people to Orange Sky – but connection is what makes this a life-changing service.

Our main aim at this time of year is to operate as consistently as possible, providing our friends with a trusted, reliable place for free laundry and shower services. But even more importantly, a friendly yarn will be there when they need it most. Orange Sky won’t pack away our orange chairs for the holiday period, and with your support, our volunteers can be there for our friends – just like Cass.

Cass was a working mum looking after two kids when she was diagnosed with cancer. The side effects of her treatment made her incredibly sick. She couldn’t work, and when she was late with paperwork, her Centrelink benefits were stopped. Cass couldn’t afford her rent any more. Cass was “absolutely devastated” when she had to send her kids to live with their dad – so they’d have a home. She moved into her tiny hatchback car.

The holiday season can be hard for our friends, because it reminds them of things they may lack – like family, safety, and the comfort of home. That’s how Cass felt last year.

“It’s really hard to be in my car alone. It hurts. The hardest thing is not being with my kids. Last Christmas, I didn’t even get to speak to my children.”

Cass is just one of the 122,494* people experiencing homelessness – up from 116,000 in 2016. The Census provides a snapshot of Australia in August 2021 – but the reality of the past 18 months indicates the rates of homelessness may be even higher now.

Connection is important all year round, but is heightened over this important holiday period. We all deserve this very basic human right. You and Orange Sky can make a difference.

We’ll be there when people need us– but we really need your support to keep our services running and volunteers ready to connect. Any support you can give to our holiday appeal would assist Orange Sky in offering a reliable service that provides our friends with a place to feel welcome over the holidays.

* That’s the number of Australians experiencing homelessness last Census night. It’s probably even higher now. (ABS Estimating Homelessness, 2023)

Help provide connection these holidays for people like Cass. Make a donation today.

Please, donate today

Mikey Goes Double the Distance for Orange Sky

There are not many people who would finish a half marathon, and wake up the next morning to run a full marathon! Well that is exactly what dedicated Orange Sky volunteer Mikey set out to do and completed at the Gold Coast Marathon earlier this July. Over two days and 63.3km later, Mikey raised an amazing $2,827 for Orange Sky, which will help positively connect Australians doing it tough through access to free laundry, warm showers and genuine conversation.

Mikey is a passionate volunteer with Orange Sky, recently taking on the position of team leader in Surry Hills, Sydney. As a regular on shift, he sees first hand the impact our bright orange van has on our friends. 

“I’ve previously volunteered with other organisations and although I knew what I was doing was helping, I couldn’t see the impact that I was having. With Orange Sky, talking to our friends while they wait for their washing, or after they’ve had a shower and are feeling refreshed – you can see how appreciative they are and are happy our service makes them. It makes it so easy to give up my spare time.

One of the things that I didn’t fully anticipate with Orange Sky was the actual connection we’d make with our friends. Especially our returning friends. We really get to know them and they get to know us. We arrive on shift and are greeted by name and asked how we are. It’s so great.

Chatting with fellow volunteers is something I really enjoy. It’s great getting together with a group of likeminded people each fortnight to help our friends in need. I’ve met a lot of inspiring people and a lot of great friends.” – Mikey 

Whether you’re eager to smash your fitness goals or just want to give something new a crack like Mikey, you can take on your next active challenge for Orange Sky and help provide clean laundry, warm showers and genuine connection for people doing it tough. 

Check out the events near you!

Meet Salin: The person behind the stat

Homelessness Week (7-13 August, 2023) is one of the most important events in the Orange Sky calendar – a time to raise awareness and shine a light on the 122,494 Australians doing it tough right now. 

Sadly, that’s one in 210 of us, but behind this statistic are complex and diverse life experiences, proving that no two people have the same journey. By sharing the stories of hardship from the voices of our friends, we can better understand the person behind the stat, and how we can support those doing it tough in our community…

Like Salin, who Orange Sky has supported for the past three years through access to free laundry and shower services, as well as a place to connect. 

Salin works a few shifts here and there unloading shipping containers, however income can become unreliable when the days are quiet and there is no work to be done. Orange Sky has been able to support Salin by providing access to free laundry and shower services, as well as the opportunity for connection.

“I am homeless at the moment and sometimes I don’t have enough money to use the laundry facilities. Orange Sky helps me, I bring my washing here maybe every two weeks. After a shift I feel good, not just because of the washing, but it’s also because I talk to the team who’s here and they are friendly. I live by myself and I don’t have too many close friends, my family is back in my country, Afghanistan.” – Salin, Orange Sky Friend.

In the times where Salin faces loneliness and unemployment, he knows that there will always be a group of welcoming people at his regular shift ready for a laugh and a long chat.

And so, every day, Orange Sky is there in locations across Australia, ready to support people doing it tough. In every one of our vans, pods and laundromats, there are six orange chairs that are pulled out at each shift to create an opportunity for volunteers and friends to connect through non-judgemental conversation.

The Sudsy Challenge is an amazing way to start a conversation, and raise funds and awareness this Homelessness Week so that friends, like Salin, have access to the essential services that Orange Sky provides. 

Whether you get a workplace team together, join your classmates or fly Sudsy solo, we’d love to have you on board for Sudsy September! By not changing clothes, you can help change the narrative around homelessness – and the lives of people doing it tough.

This Homelessness Week, grab your pals, keep your kit on and talk about Orange Sky with your community. Sign up today!

Don’t Change Clothes, Change Lives!

Sign up to The Sudsy Challenge

Yarns from the Road With Judith Meiklejohn: GAPUWIYAK, NT

Nestled at the top of the Northern Territory, in north-eastern Arnhem Land is Gapuwiyak. This remote community is roughly 872 kilometres from Darwin, and interestingly, Gapuwiyak is 219 kilometres closer to Papua New Guinea than it is to Brisbane, Queensland (where Orange Sky HQ is located). In the Yolgnu Matha language spoken by the community, ‘Gapu’ means water, and ‘Wiyak’ means salty or brackish, reflecting the community’s deep connection to the surrounding environment.

The road for Orange Sky to join the Gapuwiyak community was as smooth as they come. Odd, considering this was Orange Sky’s (often unlucky) number 13 Remote Service Rollout! The Remote Vehicle was entrusted to Orange Sky Service Leader (Northern Rivers), Dave Paulsen and his wife Joanne, to travel 3,509km from Brisbane to Darwin.

From there, myself (pictured, left) and Aimee Tyson (Orange Sky Remote Coordinator, pictured right) made our way along the Central Arnhem Highway from Darwin to Gapuwiyak. We had planned to make this leg of the trip by barge with the vehicle but were unable to (maybe this was that 13th roll-out luck kicking in?). We were welcomed into the community with people clapping and cheering as we drove in.

As with all of our services in remote communities, our shifts are run by local people employed by a local community controlled organisation. This fulfils Orange Sky’s Reconciliation Action Plan commitment to facilitate and promote self-determination. Access to clean laundry facilities is an essential service to promote wellbeing in remote locations of Australia.

We are so grateful to be welcomed into the Gapuwiyak community, to wash, yarn and connect together with ALPA and Gapuwiyak residents.

Find out more about Orange Sky’s ‘innovate’ RAP

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NAIDOC Week 2023; celebrating how Elders pave the way for meaningful connection

This NAIDOC Week 2023 we reflect upon and celebrate the role that Elders have played, and continue to play, in our communities. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, ‘Eldership’ is more than age. It is a title of honour and respect, given to those that are entrusted with “maintaining the cultural well-being of family, community, and country” (Gibson, Dudgeon, & Crockett, 2020). The theme, ‘For Our Elders’ reminds us of the deep connections that First Nations peoples have had to Country and culture for an unparalleled span of millennia. We pay homage to the work of Elders that have been, those today and those to come. 

(Nagurrgurrba, 2023)

Orange Sky’s work in connecting people doing it tough with everyday support and meaningful conversation is not new to these lands. For thousands of generations, Elders have used their roles as cultural knowledge holders, nurturers, advocates and leaders; to bring people together.

Today, Orange Sky continues to work with, learn from and be guided by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders. They are within our committees, on shifts and supporting communities in which we operate. The decisions and knowledge of Elders have shaped our work, particularly within remote communities where we operate 14 services, spanning across QLD, NT and WA.

(Nampijinpa Hudson, 2023)

Our Program Manager of Remote Services, Judith Meiklejohn, reflects on the role of Elders in her work. “We had been operating in Lockhart River for 10 months when I started working with Orange Sky in 2018. I remember setting up a community meeting to learn how the service was tracking. Elders in the community helped me understand that we needed to entirely rethink our remote service model,” Judith said. 

Judith attributes a great deal of Orange Sky’s growth in remote services, to the words and guidance of those Elders. Each of our current and new services works alongside local organisations, Traditional Owners and Elders to ensure we are providing positive and culturally safe connections within communities. 

“In my work, I have been fortunate to see the way that Elders thoughtfully consider age-old cultural protocols, whilst contemplating impacts several generations ahead. There is much that non-Indigenous people and organisations can and should learn from Elders,” Judith said.

(Nagurrgurrba, 2023)

The role of Elders cannot be understated. It is a crucial component of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; for the betterment of all Australians. This NAIDOC Week, and beyond, we celebrate and thank the Elders who pave the way for a better future, for Orange Sky and our wider Australian community.



Gibson, C., Dudgeon, P. and Crockett, J. (2020) ‘Listen, look & learn: Exploring cultural obligations of elders and older Aboriginal people’, Journal of Occupational Science, 27(2), pp. 193–203. doi:10.1080/14427591.2020.1732228. 

Nagurrgurrba, I. (2023) KINGA – SALT WATER CROCODILE, Celebrating Indigenous design with Balarinji this NAIDOC Week. Canva. Available at: https://www.canva.com/newsroom/news/canva-balarinji-partnership/. 

Nampijinpa Hudson, M. (2023) BUSH ONION DREAMING 2, Celebrating Indigenous design with Balarinji this NAIDOC Week. Canva. Available at: https://www.canva.com/newsroom/news/canva-balarinji-partnership/. 

Nagurrgurrba, I. (2023) LONG NECKED TURTLE, Celebrating Indigenous design with Balarinji this NAIDOC Week. Canva. Available at: https://www.canva.com/newsroom/news/canva-balarinji-partnership/. 

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Learning from First Nations voices this Reconciliation Week and beyond

This Reconciliation Week, Orange Sky recognises the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices in our community and across all lands. This year’s focus – “Be a Voice for Generations” – deeply resonates with our passion for starting conversations around our orange vans and services. 

The theme of “Be a Voice for Generations” recognises the crucial role that each of us plays in advocating for justice and equity. At Orange Sky, we understand the importance of being heard. Our mission to ‘positively connect communities’ is more than access to free laundry services and warm showers. It is about creating safe and inclusive spaces to speak and be heard. On shifts, and in offices, across many lands of Australia, we connect with and learn from powerful Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices. 

Orange Sky’s work is strengthened by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across all sectors of our work. Our 37 services would not be where they are today without Orange Sky’s First Nations volunteers gifting their time, staff’s commitment, donors’ generosity, or our friend’s trust. 

This Reconciliation Week, we are grateful to learn from the voices of leaders and changemakers in our ecosystem. This includes Orange Sky Board Member and Dieri and Mithaka man, Keiron Lander. When asked about respectful engagement, Keiron told us, “respectful engagement is the commitment to having proper yarns with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people which is deeply rooted in laws and protocols. Now we can learn, because we are committed to learn,” Keiron said.

During the week, our staff also heard from Dr Tim White, Co-Director of RESET, learning about mental health in remote communities and for First Nations people. Orange Sky operates 13 remote services across Australia, one of which is in the North Queensland community of Aurukun. Our remote services are an integral part of providing access to Australia’s needing laundry and connection. Dr White shared with us that, “Humility is the foundation of all interactions with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and that is what Orange Sky brings to our community”.

With Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples representing three percent of the population, yet 20 percent of Australians experiencing homelessness (ABS, 2023), more work must be done. We recognise that disparities and reconciliation can only be addressed through “proper yarns” rooted in “humility” and respectful protocols, as outlined by Keiron and Dr White. Through our work and underpinned by our Reconciliation Action Plan, Orange Sky is committed to playing our part in improving access to laundry, and showers, as well as maintaining a culturally safe place to speak and be heard.

Find out more about Orange Sky’s ‘innovate’ RAP

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