Fuelling the way for Darwin

Although our laundry and shower vans are based in the one location, they travel hundreds of kilometres every week to connect with our friends, providing free laundry, warm showers, and genuine, non-judgmental conversation. 

The list of things that keep the wheels turning on our vans is pretty long, with the main one – of course – being fuel. 

In Darwin we’re incredibly lucky to have Pat from FuelXpress Darwin by our side. 

Each week, Darwin’s hybrid shower and laundry van ‘Betsy’ makes stops across Darwin City, Palmerston and Casuarina thanks to support from Pat, who provides us with free fuel as well as a place to park the van when it’s not on shift. 

We caught up with Pat to find out a little more about why FuelXpress supports Orange Sky. He recalls first hearing about Orange Sky from a LinkedIn post. 

“The post resonated with me because it was putting into practice one of our key values - whatever we do, we must benefit as many people as possible. Orange Sky fulfils this vision and what it stands for.”

Over the past few years, FuelXpress has generously offered their services to Betsy – and they don’t plan on stopping. The business is continuing to expand and increase their capacity to hopefully host more Orange Sky services in various locations.

“Let’s not forget the less fortunate in all this. The homeless are often the loneliest and most troubled. Orange Sky, on behalf of the community, reaches out with compassion and understanding in a disarming non-denominational setting – ‘the first contact’ of connecting them back to the community they came from.”

Any contribution from business owners like Pat can help to offset the cost of running our operation, as demand for Orange Sky services continues to grow. For companies like FuelXpress, it can also be an opportunity to fulfil their ethos of social engagement and give back to the community.

“By contributing to Orange Sky we are also riding with them on their journey providing services to our communities across Australia, from the orange sky of sunrise to the orange sky of a setting evening sun – what a privilege to be associated with such a worthy community service and their team of volunteers.”

The rates of homelessness in the Northern Territory are more than 12 times the national average, and with Pat’s support, we have operated over 500 shifts across Darwin, providing over 2,100 loads of laundry, 1,300 showers and connecting with our friends through 4,400 hours of conversation.

Has Pat inspired you to give back to your community?

Support our operations

Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office

Your body is your machine. Look after it.

As an organisation that thrives on our ability to innovate, you’d be right in guessing that things move pretty quickly at Orange Sky. 

But for the last few months, every Wednesday at 12pm, we’ve been rolling out our mats and stretching out our limbs in a group Pilates session. Just for a moment, we slow everything down and connect with ourselves.

Errol, our resident UX/UI Designer and un-official (but pretty official) office Pilates instructor, shares his story about his relationship with movement, and touches on the importance of staying mobile and connected whilst at work. Here’s Errol… 

Pilates came into my life 16 years ago as a result of an injury after falling while climbing a rock. As someone who is quite adventurous and loves trying everything, my body was my main tool and needed to be repaired immediately. 

I started to work with a personal trainer. When I first started, he focused only on simple weight training as my therapy, however he did convince me to join a Pilates class. As a young and naive person, I was skeptical of Pilates and yoga. Today, 16 years later, I am still grateful to my trainer for encouraging me and even guiding me to not only attend classes, but also to become an instructor.

Our body was designed in harmony with nature thousands of years ago. From those days to these days, especially after the industrial revolution, the way we use our body has changed a lot. For the last few decades, we have introduced ourselves to office life and fixed ourselves on our comfortable chairs and desks. While we may have adjustable desks, spine-supporting cushions, an unlimited source of chocolate and the opportunity to take a break during the day as we want, our body eventually wears out. 

I can easily say that as someone who has worked in an office for many years and spent a considerable part of the day looking at screens, I have suffered from back, shoulder and joint pain like everyone else. Since bringing Pilates into my life, I have eliminated fatigue, pain, sore joints, sleeping issues and many other problems related to my body.

Increasing your mobility also affects your quality of daily life. The founder of Pilates, Joseph Pilates said, “You are only as young as your spine flexibility.”

It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise it is, what style or how we do it; we must get our bodies moving. Further to that, doing activities with friends or colleagues is one of the most important factors that strengthens team spirit and relationships.

Just like my trainer convinced me, I have convinced the team at Orange Sky to try out pilates and increase their flexibility. I knew that if I saw the benefits of pilates as an office worker, they would see it too. Especially in today’s world where lockdowns are the ‘new normal’, getting together for a short lunchtime pilates session is a great way to connect with each other, even if it over Zoom.

If you spend 5-6 hours of your day sitting in a chair in an office, you should strive to do stretch movements every hour. With some movements that are as simple as drinking water, you can increase your mobility and help to improve your quality of life. 

Inspired by Errol’s passion for Pilates? Here’s six stretches you should do if you’re sitting at a desk each day

Read More

Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office

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

Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office

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! 

Get Involved

Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office

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 thesudsychallenge.com

Take on The Sudsy Challenge!

Sign Up Now

Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office

Orange Sky's Community Response Support

In early June, severe storms hit Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges, leaving thousands of residents trapped in their homes without power. Orange Sky was proud to be involved in the recovery efforts to support people in the Dandenong community.

Ever thought about what happens when Orange Sky’s vans aren’t out on shift providing friends with free laundry and shower services?

Our Community Response Support (CRS) model caters to exactly that, providing urgent, temporary support for people impacted by natural disasters.

After hearing about the significant damage caused by the Dandenong storms in early June, we kicked into action to mobilise our CRS. With guidance from the Country Fire Association and SES Lilydale, we decided to base ourselves in the towns of Kalorama and Olinda. But before we could bring our vans in, we needed to wait almost a week for the roads to be cleared. The wild weather had caused widespread damage and debris – risky conditions which prevented emergency services from responding quickly.

Belinda Blair is an Orange Sky volunteer and HQ team member who was involved in the support efforts on the ground. She describes what the drive up the ranges was like…

“Driving up, I couldn’t believe the number of trees that had fallen and the ones that were on a tilt. And then try to imagine the sound of them swaying, creaking and then crashing - it must have been frightening.”

Belinda was just one of our incredible volunteers who gave their time to support. In less than two hours after sending our first volunteer callout, we had almost 30 people register. This meant that we could fill our first four shifts and get started the very next day. And it only grew from there. Orange Sky volunteers from across Melbourne were putting their hands up to help, so we added more shifts. Importantly, we were able to slot these into our van calendars without affecting any of our regular Melbourne shifts.

In just 11 days, Orange Sky’s Community Response Support team completed 15 x 4-hour shifts across three vans – Dasher (7 shifts), Sadie (6 shifts) and Jellyfish (2 shifts) – with 50 volunteers providing 117 loads of washing and countless more conversations. Belinda reflects on one conversation in particular: “There was a friend on the last day at our Olinda location named Craig. A tree had crashed into his house, and they were staying with friends, so he grabbed the clothes that he could from around his home. We were able to wash and dry 10 loads of laundry for him.”

With winter setting in and temperatures dropping to zero overnight, the Dandenong community was grateful for the comfort of having clean and dry clothes. “When you hand back someone’s washing and they hug it because of the warmth, and you know they are going back to their home with no power, it’s a pretty overwhelming feeling,” Belinda said.

Over two weeks, the Victoria SES recorded more than 9,500 calls for help and around 200 homes were lost. Fortunately, restoration efforts in the Dandenong Ranges were well underway at the time of our last shift on 27 June, with only 40 homes still left without power.

Having responded to other natural disasters in the past 18 months, including the East Gippsland Bushfire Recovery in February 2020, Perth Bushfires in February 2021 and Port Macquarie Region Floods in March 2021, we’ve improved our CRS processes significantly. Each scenario presents new learnings to prepare us for the next, and our goal is to build specific assets and a dedicated volunteer team for CRS so that we can deploy services quickly, without impacting our regular shifts.

Living in a country exposed to natural disasters, Orange Sky is committed to being there for our communities when these events occur. If you’d like to help us reach more communities in need, please donate today.

Donate Now

Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office

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 

Donate Now

Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office

Celebrating Five Years At Orange Sky

Lisa Sprlyan has been a fixture at Orange Sky since almost the very beginning. She started out as a volunteer five years ago, before jumping in to a role at HQ in the Operations Team. Lisa has been on the ground for a staggering eight van rollouts, including one in New Zealand, and is our resident expert when it comes to ensuring our vans are making the biggest possible impact in the community. 

We sat down with Lisa to take a look back at some of her experiences and adventures over the past five years.

How did you first hear about Orange Sky and what made you want to apply to become a volunteer? 

Back in 2016, I was actually taking some time out from my previous career so had a bit of time on my hands. One day, I received a message from an old colleague in Melbourne, with the link to volunteer with Orange Sky in Perth. I opened the link and within minutes I had completed an online application to volunteer. Not long after, I received an invite to an ‘Orangetation’ (information session) and turned up to a small group of applicants, like myself, keen to know what Orange Sky was all about. During the session, I remember Jo (former Orange Sky CEO) asking me, “So, why do you want to be a Team Leader?” I sat back and said, “I’m just here to wash clothes but hey, I’ll give that a crack!”

Your first shift with Orange Sky was five years ago. Do you remember much from that first day? 

My first day with Orange Sky was memorable for many reasons! I was lying in bed and at around 7.20am, and I got a call from Alek (trainer) to say, “Hey Lisa, where are you?” My first response was, “Um… the shift doesn’t start until 9am?”

Somewhere along the line, I had gotten the wrong time. Anyway, I didn’t live far so I said I would be there in 15 minutes. My first Friday at the Tranby Day Centre in Perth was a busy one with several washes straight up. Given it was my first shift, Alek had so much to run me through so I was ready to train my new team the following week. One of those really important things was how to fill out an incident report. Just after completing a test report, I found myself involved in what we would refer to as a ‘red incident’. For obvious reasons, I can’t share exactly what happened, but I was so impressed with the support I received from Orange Sky in the minutes after that. I came back the next week, and the rest is history!

Have your perceptions or ideas around homelessness changed from when you first started with Orange Sky five years ago?  

Before being involved with Orange Sky, I’m disappointed in myself that I really didn’t have much of an idea of what was happening in my own city, let alone around the country. My eyes have been opened a lot over the last five years to the challenges around being homeless or simply doing it tough. Most of my time with Orange Sky has involved a lot of conversations with the many amazing organisations out there helping people in our communities. I have learned SO MUCH and feel so privileged to be part of what we all do together, helping those who just need a hand.

Knowing what you know now, if you could go back and give yourself advice when first starting out with Orange Sky, what would it be?  

When you’re heading out to shift for the first time, it can be quite overwhelming learning how to use the van, getting the washing sorted, meeting other new volunteers and thinking about what to say to our friends. My advice to any new volunteer is to just take your time and work together as a team. I guarantee within three to four weeks, your shift will run like clockwork. Remember that the people who use our services are everyday people, just like you, so strike up an everyday conversation as a starting point. The most important thing you can do is say ‘hello’.

You transitioned from volunteer to staff member in 2017, but you’re still very closely involved in the delivery of our service to friends. How important is it to stay connected to your community and be part of achieving positive outcomes for our friends? 

Since moving into a staff role with Orange Sky, I’ve held several roles but all of them give me touch points where I get to connect with our friends, volunteers and service providers – something that’s really important to me. Our mission is to positively connect communities and I think that having those personal connections is very powerful and helps to really drive outcomes for our friends. 

Can you share some of your biggest achievements or favourite moments from your time as a volunteer & staff member?

It’s very hard to pick one biggest achievement, and I have so many favourite moments – every shift brings something special. I’ve been a part of eight van launches across Australia (and New Zealand) and every single one is a highlight for me. A personal favourite moment for me was getting to meet Sunrise Weatherman, Sam Mac (I’m a bit of a fan!). 

I will always remember the moment I found out that two of our friends, George and Lizzie, found out they were getting a house. It was a very special and emotional moment for me and for them, and a memory that I will always think of with so much love.

Can you share a conversation or moment that’s stuck with you the most over the past five years? 

There are so many conversations I’ve had with friends all over Australia and in New Zealand. Many conversations that have sometimes left me fighting back tears, both happy and sad. Two that stand out were learning a friend found stable accommodation after living in a car for ten years, and seeing a friend who was living on the street learn they would soon have a job and their own place to live. 

My most common conversation is one that ends with, “Thank you so much for washing my clothes.” I never would have thought those few words would mean so much to both our friends and myself.

Are there any particular relationships that stand out for you? Maybe a story about a friend or volunteer whose journey you’ve been a part of?  

Being based in Perth, I’ve nurtured some great relationships with friends on shifts over this time.  One of the very first friends that I met was Allan. Allan and I have shared various adventures together during our respective Orange Sky journeys. Allan, if you’re reading this, I know we haven’t seen each other out on shift for some time, but know your Orange Sky family is still out there for you. Hope to see you soon!

Reflecting back on five years with Orange Sky, how important is a conversation?

In the early days of OS, everyone thought it was just a few people washing clothes. What we do is so much more. The conversation is the most important thing that can happen on shift. Just a simple ‘hello’ can brighten someone’s day, and a conversation where someone genuinely listens without judgement can change someone’s whole outlook.

Help to positively connect your community.

Volunteer Now

Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office

Donors vital to support people doing it tough

Donors vital to support people doing it tough

New data analysis by Orange Sky reveals that of the top 20 wealthiest member countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Australia has the third largest overall poverty rate and the highest for those over 65. This places Australia behind other wealthy countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Germany in tackling poverty and homelessness (1).

With only a small change in events separating poverty from homelessness, those living in poverty may actually be dangerously close to not having a permanent roof over their head. Financial difficulties, family and domestic violence, housing affordability and availability, relationship breakdowns and ill-health, are just some of the many reasons people find themselves doing it tough.

Homelessness is complex and involves more than just a lack of housing. A staggering 3.24 million people in Australia now live below the poverty line (2), with data from Australia’s most recent census reporting that enough people are experiencing homelessness (116,427) to fill Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium twice over. Of the one in 200 Australians experiencing homelessness, five percent are ‘sleeping rough’ and 95 percent are staying in shelters, boarding houses, temporary accommodation, or severely crowded homes(3). Orange Sky helps Aussies in all situations, regardless of their sleeping arrangements, regain their dignity with warm showers, clean clothes and meaningful conversations.

Orange Sky Co-Founder Lucas Patchett said that he’s seen first-hand how a small change of events can change a life.

“The pandemic has impacted all of our lives in some way, but for people who may have already been struggling, it’s now made it even more difficult to get by.

“Without a strong support network in place, it just takes one or two things to go wrong for someone to find themselves homeless. We hear stories like this around our six orange chairs all the time.”

Orange Sky Australia is the world’s first free mobile laundry service for people who are experiencing homelessness, or simply going through a tough time. What started as an idea to improve hygiene standards and help restore dignity has evolved into 31 services operating in Australia and two in New Zealand. .

“After pausing our services in March last year due to COVID-19, we’ve rebuilt from the ground up to deliver over 8,200 shifts across Australia in the last 12 months. But we know there’s more people out there who need our support, and it’s concerning that demand is growing,” says Patchett.

Orange Sky is striving to deliver 12,500 shifts in the next financial year, which is an increase of over 50% to meet demand. As a result, the charity is encouraging Australians to help people doing it tough as the end of the financial year approaches. A tax-deductible donation will provide clean clothes, warm showers and genuine, non-judgemental conversations.

“Our donors are absolutely essential to keeping our bright orange vans on the road and to continue to scale our operations so we can help as many people as possible,” says Patchett.

Jasmine Ongley is an advocate for Orange Sky for this very reason, “The work Orange Sky does is so important in providing those living rough with some basic dignity and much needed company. Homelessness can be much closer than many of us think and it is heartening to know that the wonderful services and volunteers of Orange Sky are out there in the community.” says Jasmine.

Patchett says, “Our donors like Jasmine are invaluable; without them we wouldn’t be able to support Aussies who have unexpectedly found themselves experiencing homelessness.”

Australians who are able to, are encouraged to visit the website to make a tax-deductible donation to support people doing it tough.

About Orange Sky

Orange Sky is the world’s first free mobile laundry service for people experiencing homelessness – an idea founded in a Brisbane garage by two 20-year-old mates, Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett. In late 2014, the boys installed a couple of washing machines and dryers in the back of an old van and visited parks around Brisbane to wash and dry clothes for free.

Orange Sky has expanded to provide shower services and remote vehicles, and is now operating 31 services across the country, providing people doing it tough with access to free laundry and shower services.

What started as an idea to improve hygiene standards and restore dignity to people doing it tough has evolved into something much bigger and more powerful. Orange Sky volunteers have engaged in 236,734 hours of conversations to date, helping to challenge the perception of homelessness and positively connect communities all around Australia.

After growing their laundry and shower services across Australia, Orange Sky expanded into New Zealand in 2018 taking the organisation international with a vision to help the 41,600 New Zealanders experiencing homelessness.

Data Citations

A change of events can change a life. But so can your support. 

Donate Now

Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office

National Reconciliation Week

The Orange Sky team is currently approaching its third leg on our remote venture, where we hope to visit as many remote communities as possible from April to June 2021. With their hearts full, washing baskets empty and the Northern Territory now in their rear-view mirror, the team now has their sights set on Cape York as they continue to grow Orange Sky’s understanding and relationships with remote communities across the country.

On board the van, Rosco is Richard Cassady; a Traditional Owner from Palm Island and Cultural Navigator for the trip. Richard has played an important role, in a similar capacity, in the rollout of Orange Sky’s Palm Island service, which is one of three remote services currently in operation across Australia.

‘More than a word. Reconciliation takes action’ is the theme for National Reconciliation Week this year, urging a reconciliation movement towards braver and more impactful action. To break it down further, we turned to Richard to ask what this means to him through the lens of a Cultural Navigator.

Taking some time out in the shade at Fitzroy Crossing, escaping the notorious Top End heat, Richard shares a candid yarn with our team about all things Reconciliation Week and the importance of creating a ‘together space’ through organisations like Orange Sky.

“Here’s the thing, mob will tell you very clearly whether there’s quality in your program or not. They’ll engage and say – hey this is absolutely great – or they’ll vote with their feet and go to the footy. So for me, when I see the level of engagement, I think Orange Sky’s doing some really great things in terms of engaging with people.

“Whether you’re a First Person in a remote setting, or someone in Perth or in Brisbane, Orange Sky is engaging with humanity without condition and I reckon that’s a pretty cool space to occupy.”

You can watch Richard’s full interview below. To learn more about how we’re supporting remote communities, click here

Orange Sky currently operates three remote services. If you would like to support us to expand our services in remote communities, please consider a donation. 

Donate Now

Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office