Senator MOORE (Queensland) (21:13): Last week two young men from Brisbane were honoured with the title Young Australians of the Year. Nick Marchesi and Lucas Patchett launched Orange Sky Laundry in 2015. It was a simple idea. They wanted to treat people who were homeless with respect. The idea was that they would provide a free laundry service so that people who did not have much else would at least have the respect of having clean laundry.
These two young men are very articulate and they are great salesmen. I have had the honour of meeting them a couple of times and hearing them speak. After they won the award they did a maze of media, and in doing that they have both talked about their passion and the idea behind Orange Sky Laundry.
Lucas Patchett said in his discussions that they started Orange Sky Laundry because their 'eyes were opened to homelessness at a really early age'. They were involved with a school van at their school, Gregory Terrace in Brisbane, which is pretty close to where my office is. The school has a strong social justice feature in the programs for the young men who attend Greg Terrace. They have time working with their communities to learn more about equity and social justice. Through this program these two young men got to meet with people who had not very much, who had genuine disadvantage. Out of that came the idea of treating homeless people with respect. One of the core elements was linking the laundry service with an opportunity for people to have a chat-a genuine connection of community. Lucas went on to say:
the great thing about laundry is it takes time and that time is the most powerful impact that our service can have.
… … …
you know, one hour is one hour having a chat on our great orange chairs is a really good time for our volunteers but also our friends … to really connect back into the community.
The idea was, as said by Nic Marchesi:
Orange Sky's key mission is to better connect the community and what we've found is that through a really simple thing like having fresh clean clothes we're able to restore respect, raise health standards, and reduce the strain on resources.
The basis of Orange Sky Laundry is engaging volunteers. As of this week there are over 270 volunteers working for Orange Sky in Brisbane, Melbourne and Cairns, bringing their services to the community. It started very simply in Brisbane. They got hold of an old van, appropriately called Sudsy, which took the idea into the streets. They took the van, fitted it out with a generator, water tanks and two large washing machines and dryers. They started driving around the streets, going to where homeless people were and parking near food vans, allowing the homeless people to have their clothes washed while waiting for a feed. It costs between $5 and $6 for people to go to a laundromat to have their laundry done. That can be a real problem if you are surviving on the streets, so the idea was that the service would be provided free. It has grown because it works. The service has received funding from a number of volunteers, from organisations-a large number of people who wanted to be involved. I think it really started with the families of the two young men and their school community, who worked together to ensure their idea would be able to start, and indeed it has. When Mr Patchett was accepting his award the other night, he said that the simple idea was, 'clean clothes and conversation. But after'-now, at the end of 2015-'70,000 kilos of washing we realised it was much more than that. We can restore respect. We have found a way to treat others how we would want to be treated.'
Orange Sky Laundry, while establishing itself across the cities of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, has gone to a couple of areas where there have been the added issues of local tragedies. Last year Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was warning Central Queensland to brace for cyclone Marcia, which was hitting our coast. The guys were in Cairns and took their Orange Sky Laundry van to the people of Rockhampton and Yeppoon. There are some quite amazing television footage of the regions there, where houses had been destroyed by the strength of cyclone Marcia. Having the van there for people to gather around and to be offered the simple respect of clean laundry and of having a place to go. Lucas Patchett tells of their mission:
We jumped in the car and started driving south, pulled into Rocky-
which is several hours down from Cairns, as you would know, Madam Acting Deputy President Peris-
at around 1am just after the cyclone hit and there was significant damage all throughout the city. We were there in Rocky and Yeppoon for four days and we washed over 1,000 kilos of clothes.
On the Orange Sky web site there are interviews with people who used Orange Sky, not just in Yeppoon, although it is incredibly touching to see that, but also other people who have had the benefit of using it.
I think it is important that the work and commitment that these young men have put into their service and the understanding that a simple idea can build into something that has been so effective and powerful is shared by people across the community. Lucas Patchett talks about an experience with a bloke called Jordan, who was a really important person that they met on the streets. Lucas describes him as a 'really important part of our story and humbling for us. Jordan went to school just up the road from us.' He did the exact same degree as Lucas is currently doing at the University of Queensland. 'This guy might be five or 10 years down the track from me, and after one, two or three wrong turns in his life he finds himself in a very unfortunate situation. To wash and dry his clothes was a really powerful experience for me.' They also talked about a young man named Grant, who had come to the service for the first time. Mr Marchesi said:
As I passed Grant's laundry back to him, he told me something I'll never forget. He said, 'Nic, I haven't been able to have a conversation with anyone for over three days'.
Again, this is the link of having not just the laundry service available but the important element of engagement and having a conversation. Indeed, it is building community, load by load of washing.
I did not think I would ever be talking positively about laundry. It is not something I think about as being important in my life, but listening to the stories that I had the chance to do over the last couple of years in Brisbane about the difference Orange Sky has made to lives reinforces how important an element engagement-talking and understanding-can be.
We have talked about why these guys got involved. We have talked about the passion they have and the need for more volunteers and donations-there is absolutely a call for that-but one of the big questions is: why is it called Orange Sky? I did not know. The song Orange Sky is by a guy called Alexi Murdoch, who has been a very important artist. In the song are the words 'In your love my salvation lies' and 'I had a dream I stood beneath an orange sky with my brother standing by.'
The idea for Orange Sky came to these young men when they were inspired to work together and to work with their brothers standing by. I think this group is a very worthy recipient of the Young Australian of the Year award-the first time the award has been jointly held. I think Orange Sky shows that mateship can bring about a great dream and a great passion.
I want to congratulate Nick and Lucas for their work. But I also think that we can be a part of it. That is the opportunity we have, not just through young Australians of the year but through building Australian community on every corner of every street and by ensuring that we treat people with the respect they deserve, and maybe having a chat with them while their laundry is being done by Orange Sky.