In addition to supporting people experiencing homelessness and hardship, participation in public health responses and community recovery is an important part of what we do at Orange Sky.

Our Senior Impact Manager of Remote Services Judith Meiklejohn has mobilised a team to improve access to free washing facilities in the Mount Isa community. The initiative is part of a two-week trial to support a public health response for skin health.

Our team has partnered with the North West Hospital and Health Service (NWHHS) skin health team and other local services to improve community wellbeing. We have been offering free access to hot washing and drying facilities as part of prevention activities. While people wait for their washing, the skin health team has been offering free skin check-ups as needed. These activities contribute to a broader national and regional strategy to reduce the incidence of scabies and rheumatic heart disease (RHD).

Since we arrived in Mount Isa with our remote laundry van, equipped with three washing machines and three dryers, we’ve been able to offer a safe space for connection and provide 20 to 30 loads of free washing daily.

“We understand that having clean clothes and bedding is important for wellbeing and that is guiding our work in the Mount Isa community,” said Judith.

“The rising cost of living, overcrowding and sometimes complex housing and social conditions means accessing a washing machine is prohibitive for some. This often has implications for health and wellbeing, particularly skin health, that may lead to conditions such as rheumatic heart disease. We feel really privileged to be here working alongside other organisations to improve access to essential services.”

We’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the local stakeholders we’ve engaged with on the ground…

“Wonderful work you are doing!! Keep it up and I am so pleased that with some exposure you received a strong community response. It makes me happy to see great initiatives like Orange Sky that support our local communities in need. What you’re doing is so very important – thank you”

“What a successful trip. We would like to say a big thank you from our team and residents, it was great to be able to offer the service onsite”

“Thank you for your willingness to be patient and listen to our communities’ needs. My new saying is ‘it won’t happen overnight…but it is happening’!!”

During the response, several team members had the opportunity to participate in the health response including one of Orange Sky’s board members Paula Holden, who shared her own reflection…

“I spent a short time in Mt Isa recently with Orange Sky, providing laundry and hours of endless conversation (and a cheeky dance with a friend at the back of the van). I was overwhelmed by the welcoming people who would happily sit and yarn with us whilst their washing rumbled away in the background; sharing stories of their lives and their families so generously was highlight.

It was evident of the need in the community in providing a mobile service which saw us moving from driveway to driveway. Wash after wash we saw everything from friend’s clothes and bedding to children’s most prized possessions- this even included a very big unicorn!

Working alongside partners and organisations who provide services in town, including Queensland Health, the Orange Sky Mt Isa health response was targeting hygiene through clean washing in response to the region seeing higher than average rates of rheumatic heart disease.

Hearing friend’s personal stories about family members who had experienced the disease first hand and how hard they were working to ensure their children and grandchildren were better able to care for themselves. From my perspective, the magic of these shifts happened though a deep sense of connection. Listening, learning and helping form an understanding from both a cultural and human perspective, I left feeling like we had moments of mutual benefit in helping each other towards shared meaning.” – Paula, Orange Sky Board Member.

We are so proud to be mobilising our bright orange van and providing access to free hot washing facilities in Mt Isa, alongside other health organisations, to support positive health outcomes for community members suffering from skin health concerns.

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

Orange Sky's RAP