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28 May, 2021

Laundry and kindness

OVER the past two years, the volunteers at Orange Sky Cairns have done 82,400 kilograms of laundry and offered countless hours of friendly, judgement-free conversation and assistance to people in need.

By Tanya Murphy

Valmay Wyles (second from left) and Delphine Getawan (right) put their laundry on with the help of volunteers Cathy Forbes, Lyndal Lowth and Yvonne Gordon

Orange Sky is an Australia-wide non-profit organisation which provides free mobile laundry services to people doing it tough, using special trucks with inbuilt power generators.

The Cairns truck does three-hour shifts, five days a week in different places.

On Tuesday evenings, the truck equipped with three industrial washing machines and three dryers visits homeless people outside Anglicare.

“There are around 3000 homeless people in Cairns and that number is growing now thanks to COVID-19 and the rental crisis,” said Orange Sky Cairns service leader Lyndal Lowth.

“Especially post-COVID, there are so many people that you wouldn’t normally have seen. Part of that is not being able to afford rent, rents going up, and it being hard to get into places, and the number of people who have lost jobs and suddenly find themselves financially in dire straits.”

Every Monday morning the truck spends three hours at Cairns Villa and Leisure Park, where volunteers do about 675 kilograms of laundry for about 15 families.

The park has a high population of transient, unemployed residents who do not have their own washing machines.

Ms Lowth said many people did not have access to hot water, let alone funds to use a laundromat, and had to choose between cleaning their clothes or buying food.

“For a big load, a laundromat can cost over $50 plus the taxi cost to transport the laundry,” she said.

The Orange Sky truck provides a hot water wash with antibacterial, sanitising laundry liquid, to help combat skin diseases like scabies which can be spread by dirty clothes.

Once a week the van does a shift at Yarrabah.

“At least a third of the community out there have no washing machines, or their washing machines are broken, and some of them live in bush camps relying on generators,” said Ms Lowth.

Ms Lowth said the volunteers provided much more than just a laundry service.

“The clientele we provide the service for are usually really socially isolated, and you’re a positive face that they get to know and trust over the years,” she said.

“While the laundry is washing, you just provide positive non-judgemental conversation, get to know them, find out what their story is and what they might need help with.

“Many people will disclose things to you around health, mental health, domestic violence, suicide and more, and you can help refer them to relevant services around clothing, mental health, housing and so on.”

Ms Lowth said the Cairns truck had about 35 volunteers but urgently needed more, particularly during weekdays.

A training course is provided and no qualifications or experience are required except a big heart and a desire to connect with people.

"You’ll be with a team of like-minded volunteers on each shift," said Ms Lowth.

You can find out more about how to volunteer and participate with Orange Sky’s Cairns services at


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