Free mobile laundry service for people in need finds new home in Hunter region

HUNTER GETS MOBILE: Orange Sky Laundry co-founders Lucas Patchett and Nic Marchesi, either side of Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes, with volunteers at the launch of one of their free laundry vans in Newcastle on August 3.
HUNTER GETS MOBILE: Orange Sky Laundry co-founders Lucas Patchett and Nic Marchesi, either side of Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes, with volunteers at the launch of one of their free laundry vans in Newcastle on August 3.

Orange Sky Laundry founder Lucas Patchett said Newcastle “had been calling out” for one of their mobile vans.

Mr Patchett and Nic Marchesi earned the 2016 Young Australians of the Year honour for developing a mobile laundry service for homeless people in Brisbane.

Orange Sky Laundry started in 2014 when the pair put two washing machines and two dryers in a van and started offering the free service.

They were in Newcastle on August 3 to launch their 14th van, Hunter, which will be used at 12 locations throughout the region on a weekly basis.

“This van has been about a year in the pipelines and it’s officially here,” Mr Patchett said.

“We’re excited to have it here to provide what is a really simple service. But clean clothes and conversation is something that we all need and are all entitled to.”

Orange Sky have partnered with Development and Relief Agency (DARA) in Newcastle to provide the service. 

“This is our fourth van here in NSW and it is one of our first outside a capital city,” Mr Patchett said. 

“The Newcastle community has been so welcoming of it. Ever since we started I think this community has been calling out for it.” 

It costs $60,000 per year to keep an Orange Sky Laundry mobile van operational.

“We need four things to launch in an area; we need people to help, service providers to work alongside, we need volunteers to run it then we need money,” he said.

“We’ve had about 30 people already register their interest to volunteer with us prior to us even getting here. That’s the most volunteers registered before we've actually had a van in any other city across Australia.

“We knew Newcastle would be such a welcoming community, so that’s why we’ve worked so hard with DARA to get the funding to get the van on the road.”

The laundry service will work in tandem with DARA’s mobile food van.

Mr Patchett said the service will rely heavily upon the contribution of volunteers such as University of Newcastle law student Jack Tearle.

“Here in Newcastle the DARA foundation is funding this van and we’re going to work with the local community to keep it on the road,” Mr Patchett said.

“It costs us $60,000 a year to keep the van here, so we’re calling on the community to both volunteer and to also support it financially.”

Mr Tearle had his first stint volunteering with the Hunter Orange Sky mobile laundry van at its launch on August 3.

“I saw it on the news when they got the Australian of year award and I thought that seems like a worthwhile cause, so I signed up online,” Mr Tearle said.

“I think helping the community is an important part of a well-rounded life.”

DARA spokesperson Sean Scanlon, left, with Orange Sky Laundry volunteer Jack Tearle.

DARA spokesperson Sean Scanlon, left, with Orange Sky Laundry volunteer Jack Tearle.

DARA is run by the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and have been sending a mobile food van to Islington Park on Saturdays.

DARA spokesperson Sean Scanlon said expanding the service to a daily basis would make a difference to those in need in the Hunter.

“DARA operates here at Islington Park and it’s been doing that on Saturday afternoons for many many years and now we’ve taken the opportunity to partner Orange Sky and roll out the services six days a week at 12 different locations,” Mr Scanlon said.

“Not all of those have been determined but certainly Port Stephens and Maitland and we’re looking at Cessnock and other locations in Newcastle.

“We will be somewhere during the day and somewhere in the evenings.

“Particularly in winter we see a lot more people sleeping rough or even people struggling with the finances and expenses they’ve got, such as big power bills.”

He said DARA also wanted to engage people in the community through the two mobile vans.

“Some people just come down for a chat and a bite to eat, other people come down because it’s the only decent meal they get in a week,” he said. “It’s quite a mix of people who come down to Islington, so we’d expect that in those other places as well.

“The orange chairs that are set up with Orange Sky are an opportunity for a chat and people sitting down and having a bite to eat also often brings out a different sort of conversation.”

Newcastle city lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes was on hand at the launch and said “improving the quality of lives of every Australian is really important in the city of Newcastle”.

To find out more about the services or about volunteering, go to www.orangesky.org.au or www.dara.org.au.

“I think helping the community is an important part of a well-rounded life.”

Jack Tearle