Notes From The Road: Beyonce, Football and Funeral Shoes

With the first leg (covering South Australia) of Orange Sky’s Remote Venture trip now complete, the team is making ground across the top end in our purpose-built van, ‘Rosco’. Orange Sky’s Program Manager Judith Meiklejohn, who is currently on location with Rosco, provides an update from their stopover in Wadeye NT, where 88 loads of washing were provided across the local community in just 12 hours.

It was dark by the time the Orange Sky Remote Venture team pulled into Wadeye after a slow, dusty, bumpy, yet beautiful drive from Katherine. Our first morning in Wadeye was met with lots of inquisitive, and almost confused looks from onlookers across the community. Many people were surprised to learn the big bright orange truck, ‘Rosco’, had washing machines on board. Better still, they were excited to learn that our team was there to provide free laundry services to anyone who needed it. What we learnt was that for many people, our arrival meant that they got a momentary reprieve from having to borrow someone else’s machine to wash. After an hour, each load would be handed back clean and warm.

It was clear that our services were in demand. There were so many requests to wash that we eventually ran out of time. In the three days we spent in Wadeye, the Orange Sky team provided 88 loads of washing, across four shifts, in three different locations. Each shift had a busy crowd from the community that gathered to organise themselves, sort washing, and yarn with each other as well as with the Orange Sky team. That is also such an important part of our service; to provide a platform to start conversations and positively connect communities in this way. It was a valuable opportunity to learn more about the Wadeye community from the residents themselves and we loved connecting and learning from them as they went about their everyday lives around us. There was such a positive vibe radiating across each shift; it left our team feeling elated at the end of each day.

There were several special moments for each of us, ranging from dancing along to Beyonce with the children and women, spontaneous games of ‘front yard’ AFL, and yarns about family, bush tucker, hunting and growing up in an ever-changing community. But one standout moment for all of us was the moment a little boy named Wilford, around 10 years old, arrived at our shift. On arrival he quickly grabbed a chair next to Richard, our Remote Venture Cultural Navigator, connecting with him instantly. While the other children got busy cleaning washing machines or playing footy, this little boy sat quietly, talking with Richard. 

Wilford asked politely if he could get some washing and brought back a white basket full of clothes. He sat close by the basket to protect his belongings, and although he was a fair way at the back of the line, he did not seem worried. He sat respectfully and graciously as he waited for his turn. At one point, he silently went away to have a shower and returned clean with combed hair and dress pants on. At another point, he left to change out of those dress pants and returned to pop them in the basket to be washed. 

As it neared Wilford’s turn, Nic (Orange Sky’s Co-Founder) asked about washing his shoes, noticing the white sneakers he had brought along to wash. Wilford told us that they were his funeral shoes.

It was one of those moments that stuck with us all; a realisation that this young boy clearly understood concepts that most children his age would be shielded from. We never got to see who his guardian or parent was, but to all of us, he seemed wise beyond his years. We all felt so grateful that we could help him to clean his clothing, bedding, and funeral outfit. We vowed to be a little bit more like him; wise and gracious. It was experiences like this that made it more difficult to leave Wadeye when it was time to pack up the truck to head for our next destination.

The Orange Sky Remote Venture has so far been an incredible experience for which I am personally very thankful to be a part of. We have driven across some of Australia’s toughest terrain, surrounded by stunning natural beauty to reach some truly remarkable remote communities. Along the way, we have met some extraordinarily committed service providers, talented artists and storytellers, inspirational leaders and strong people who are connected to land, community, and culture.

It is astounding to me that in 2021, there are still people in such a wealthy country like Australia who do not have their basic needs met – things like clean clothing and bedding. It is alarming to understand first hand that access to regular and reliable laundry services is out of reach for many people in remote Australia. 

Orange Sky has made a commitment to work alongside as many remote communities as possible to be part of the solution. We can’t wait to visit and check in with more communities to learn and understand how we can best help, now and in the future.

You can hear more about Wilford’s story in the video below, with footage shot by the team during their time in Wadeye.

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. 

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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

One Shift, Three Generations of Volunteers

Each fortnight for the last four years, Racheal Higgins – a proud Torres Strait Island woman – has volunteered with the Orange Sky team to provide free washing and shower services to vulnerable members of the Brisbane community who are doing it tough.

As well as working and studying full time, Racheal has undertaken 73 shifts, and given up 148 hours of her spare time to help positively connect the community. She has a particular interest in connecting with vulnerable members of the Indigenous community.

Over the four years since volunteering, Racheal has influenced members of her immediate family to volunteer alongside her. Racheal (49), her Mum Kristina (68), daughter Lily (23) and son Zane (24) make up three generations of one family who come together at Musgrave Park (in Brisbane) to connect with a very special place in their hearts.

We sat down and had a chat with Racheal about all things Orange Sky, the importance of non-judgmental conversation, and what Reconciliation Week means to her…

What’s your role with Orange Sky?
I’m a volunteer Team Leader with Orange Sky’s shower van and head out to Musgrave Park every Tuesday evening. We welcome any vulnerable people who are doing it tough to come along for a chat and shower. All of the Orange Sky volunteers feel that most importantly, it’s about the connection we make that says to our friends on the street, “Hey I see you, I respect you, and you deserve the dignity of using the services that we’re offering.”

Why is Musgrave Park significant to you?
Musgrave Park is a place of family. I grew up in West End in the 70s, and would regularly take walks through the park and would often see my Dad. A lot of my Dad’s extended family visited there, and for me it was like a second home. It was where everyone came together and felt a sense of belonging and camaraderie. My Dad came from the Torres Strait to find work in the city and found it quite difficult adapting to the western ways of living in the city. There was an expectation about how Australians should be and it was the dominant narrative at the time. Like many others, he struggled with this, developed addiction issues, and as a result, became homeless and spent time in Musgrave Park.

What kind of people do you meet on shift?
Generally we have about 20 people who come along to each shift and utilise our shower or washing machine services. There are a few regulars who we have built up a good rapport with over time. At Orange Sky, we prefer to call people we meet ‘friends’ as it portrays respect and equality within our relationship rather than us just being a service provider.

Each week I bring along my portable speaker as a drawcard and I use that as a way to connect with people through a love of music. I usually play country music to encourage some of the First Nation’s friends to come and chat with me. I find that I can relate to them and for that reason particularly seek them out to make a connection. I play a lot of the songs that my Dad listened to, as it reminds me of him, such as Charley Pride, Tammy Wynette and Roy Oribison. But some of the locals also request ABBA and Grease! We often have a bit of a dance and a singalong. It’s always a lot of fun.

How do some of the stories from Indigenous friends differ?
Some of the stories of the Indigenous Friends and how they came to be homeless can be difficult to hear. It is common to hear about the effects of colonisation and intergenerational trauma suffered that have contributed to their personal situations. In particular, one man I met became very upset after sharing his story with me. All I could do was listen and empathise.

Making an impact on someone through genuine connection by volunteering each week is very meaningful to me. Every time I leave the shift, I hope that I’ve made a positive contribution to somebody’s day. I find it really rewarding whether it’s talking, listening, or playing a favourite song, I really look forward to it each week.

Your kids also volunteer with you, how did that come about?
I always try to be non-judgmental and to accept people as they are and have instilled this value into my children, as it was instilled in me from my own upbringing. My mixed race European/Indigenous family were very forward for the time as my grandparents welcomed and accepted everybody and I followed by example.

My youngest daughter Lily, started volunteering at Orange Sky alongside me from the age of 19. My son Zane was interested in our stories and wanted to check it out too, and Mum has now joined us as well. Initially I started on a different shift, but was keen to join the Musgrave Park shift as I have a connection to it through my Dad and other family members who have frequented there over the years.

The friends on shift are sometimes surprised that we are all family as we all look quite different but one of the Friends calls me Mum now too, which shows how we have made a close connection. It’s great that all of us are now on the same shift as we use this time to catch up as well as chat to friends – we’re all like a big family!

Generally it might be hard to ‘switch off’ after a more difficult conversation on shift and being exposed to sad stories, but it’s great to have the support of my Mum and kids who get to share the experience with me. It’s a unique situation to be able to share my volunteer experience with my family in that way and have an opportunity to debrief.

What do you think it does for your kids in particular?
I think it opens up a whole new perspective on life really. They can see and hear firsthand how other people live, and can reflect on their own lives in a meaningful way. Volunteering opens up a whole new world and view on humanity.

What does Reconciliation Week mean to you?
I try to be a part of reconciliation every day. I think Australians as a whole should speak up about injustices and show support for Indigenous people by standing beside them. It’s about trying to make a difference in the community and bringing all of the cultures together, particularly First Nations. It’s more than just a week, and it’s more than just words.

What do you think it takes to be an Orange Sky volunteer?
I think good communication skills are essential as you need to listen without judgement. It sounds simple, but it can actually be quite difficult for some people. But mostly I think you need to be authentic, show your true self. By doing this, you invite people to trust you and feel comfortable to open up to you and share their stories.

I would say to people considering volunteering with this service, that it’s a rewarding and life changing experience where you meet people and can open yourself up to new and interesting experiences. I highly encourage anyone to join particularly if you have the capacity to do that at this point in your life.

Learn how you can take braver and more impactful action this Reconciliation Week

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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

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

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

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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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

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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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

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

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

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?”

Want to read more stories from inspiring women at Orange Sky?

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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

Ghana & Jane

I have been volunteering for Orange Sky at Cairns Villas for nine months and have absolutely loved connecting with our fantastic friends on the orange chairs each week.

There are two friends in particular that our Saturday team of volunteers have become very close to; Jane, 73 and Ghana, 31. The pair have been coming to Orange Sky to do their washing and enjoy conversation since the commencement of operations at Cairns Villas.

Despite living in close proximity to each other, Jane and Ghana had not made a connection prior to Orange Sky’s arrival at their location. So you can imagine my surprise when I arrived at shift one Saturday morning to have Jane and Ghana tell me that they are in fact related! Their joy was palpable and of course I couldn’t wait to hear their tale.

The story begins with a visit from Ghana’s Uncle Torres, who had travelled from Darwin to Cairns to attend a family funeral. Whilst he was visiting Ghana and her family, Torres mentioned that his brother and sister in law lived nearby and he wanted to visit them while he was in Cairns.

What transpired after her Uncle’s visit was a series of ‘sliding door’ type events that led Ghana to form the belief that her Uncle Torres might also be Jane’s brother in law.

The very next Orange Sky shift, with the suspicion that they might be connected through family, Ghana sat down next to Jane on our orange chairs and asked if she knew someone named Torres Momoa. Jane responded in the affirmative, that Torres was her brother-in-law of 40 years. Ghana then explained that Torres was also her Uncle, meaning that she and Jane were family.

To say that Jane and her husband Ted were elated to discover unknown relatives right on their doorstep is the understatement of the year. They said; “We’re able to add a niece, a nephew (Ghana and her husband) and another 7 ‘grandchildren’ (their kids) to the family.”

The relationship between Jane and Ghana has continued to blossom, growing in love and respect each week. It has been a privilege for our Saturday morning team to have played a small part in witnessing the development of this amazing connection. It reinforces the power of what can be achieved by bringing communities together on the orange chairs and we are all richer for the experience.

I consider it an honour to be an Orange Sky volunteer and know with experiences such as these that I receive far more than I give.

If you’ve got a story to share from shift, we’d love to hear from you!

Share a Yarn 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

Five years of conversations on our six orange chairs

There’s not many people who have been at Orange Sky longer than Maryam Clarkson.

She started volunteering in Melbourne back in July 2015 and has managed the entire service – consisting of two laundry and one shower van – since 2017. With more than 250 volunteers in Melbourne, Maryam has looked after one of our busiest services across the country in her role as Service Leader (which, by the way, is completely voluntary). From scoping out new shifts and doing risk assessments, to rostering volunteers and running our Orangetation (‘orientation’) training, there’s not a lot she hasn’t done in her time with Orange Sky.

Maryam has decided to hang up her Orange Sky shirt and take a bit of a break from volunteering after five and a half years of service to her community. She chatted with us about her Orange Sky journey and some of the lessons she’s taken away from her time spent sitting down on orange chairs.

“At the start of 2015, my youngest child entered primary school. I gave myself a couple of months to recuperate, after having three kids at home for so long, then I started looking for something to do. It so happened to be the time when Nic and Lucas were heading down to Melbourne to start Orange Sky.

I had previously volunteered at the primary school my kids were attending. I thought volunteering was an integral part of a community’s survival. There is so much unpaid work that occurs behind the scene and is not often acknowledged.

My first shift was in July 2015. It was at St Mary’s in Fitzroy on a Monday morning and I was a weekly volunteer to begin with. There were a lot of people wanting to volunteer and not many friends, but the service eventually picked up and we saw the same characters come back again and again.

Early on in my Orange Sky experience, I met a woman at the Batman Park shift. Our conversation started off like most others, but it soon turned to her letting me know that she had just miscarried. Only a week earlier. I was dumb struck, not knowing what to say to her. There was no fixing that moment. I would often tell this story [at Orangetations] that sometimes it is just good to be with someone on shift and not try to ‘fix’ things for people.

I had been volunteering for a year when the opportunity came up to be the ‘Appbassador’ – a job where I had to visit every shift, roll out the tablet in each van and show volunteers how to use it (Orange Sky tablets are used to track the journey to and from shift, to capture wash and shower numbers, and measure conversation hours). I went to Brisbane for the Volunteer Summit that year in 2016 and met all the other state leaders.

Then an opportunity came up for the Service Leader role and I thought that I would give that a go. I did fear that I may not be able to do it, but I wanted to stretch myself. I am so glad I did. Man, have I learnt a lot, grown a lot and really loved the role. It has been really tough at times with having to deal with difficult situations, but we got through and learnt from these. I have loved working with and supporting all the volunteers to enjoy their experience helping others.

I will miss feeling the importance of my role and the interactions with volunteers. Getting that good feeling when you’re on shift helping people and knowing that what I was doing was making a real difference in people’s lives. I will miss the connections with all the people I have met over the five and a half years; from the staff at HQ, to my fellow volunteers and especially the friends I met out on shift each week.

Conversations are so important. They make you feel connected, important and worthwhile. Email conversations; just don’t cut it. They lose the personal touch of a tone of voice, a smile and warmth. Everyone needs to connect to others. It is in our human DNA.”

Volunteers like Maryam, who give their time in support of the community, help to make Orange Sky a place where our friends feel welcome, connected and safe. We can’t thank Maryam enough for her contribution to our Melbourne service and wish her all the best for a well-deserved break.

Pictured below is Maryam’s final shift in Melbourne on December 25, 2020.

Interested in making a helping to make a difference like Maryam?

Become a volunteer today

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

Advocating for inclusion on January 26

Orange sky recognises that January 26 is a day that causes many of Australia’s First Nations people a great deal of pain and hurt.

As an organisation that seeks to support the 23,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders experiencing homelessness, we advocate for celebrating on a date that is inclusive for all Australians.

We’re proud to be an Australian-founded organisation and we encourage the recognition of people from all walks of life who are doing great things in their backyard.

In line with our mission to positively connect communities, we want Orange Sky to be a place where everyone can feel welcome, supported and included.

As Orange Sky continues to provide our laundry service in remote communities, we remain committed to being a better ally for the First Nations people of this land. #AlwaysWasAlwaysWillBe

Learn more about Orange Sky’s services in remote communities.

Find Out 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