The 2016 Young Australians of the Year (AOTY) are packing up their van and driving from Brisbane to Melbourne — collecting positive Australians on the way.
Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett founded Orange Sky Laundry — the world’s first free mobile laundry service for the homeless — in 2014.
To help promote nominations for the AOTY awards, they are driving more than 2,000 kilometres in five days with a bus and their latest laundry van.
The duo is set to pass through Lismore, Tamworth, Newcastle, Wollongong, Goulburn and Albury-Wodonga, meeting with local communities to encourage them to think outside the box.
“We’re going to look for future nominees and we’re taking past award recipients with us on the bus to have a great road trip together,” Mr Marchesi said.
“The Australia of the Year bus will take our crew and we’re going to document the whole process as we go.”
Each week Orange Sky Laundry has 600 volunteers who wash nearly six tonnes of laundry while engaging in more than 1,200 hours of conversation.
Their 10th van will travel south alongside the Australian of the Year bus that was created by the group.
Mr Patchett said the tour planned to “celebrate Aussies worthy of attention”.
“Winning AOTY has given us rocket fuel for Orange Sky, and to be given the opportunity is something we want to highlight,” he said.
“It’s not to only help those nominated but also to help their organisation with the great work they’re doing.
“Our homeless friends get a massive kick out of seeing us on TV and they feel proud to be part of the story.”
Life after the Australian of the Year awards
Mr Marchesi said many doors had opened since winning the award.
“We were just two blokes who had a crazy idea of chucking two washing machines and two dryers into a van, driving around and washing clothes,” he said.
“We started 20 months ago and we never thought we would get to the point of having 40 washing machines in our fleet in 66 locations and it’s going to keep growing.”
He said the aim had always been to deliver their service to as many homeless people in Australia as they could.
“We want to see more vans in rural communities and we want to find ways to treat others the way they want to be treated.
“Everyone around the world needs free laundry if they’re homeless so we want to help expand that around the world.”
The group hopes to offer further training and employment programs for the homeless throughout the country.
“That’s our key aim; we hope that next week or in 10 years’ time there’s actually people around the world that aren’t homeless and are trained and employed by us,” Mr Marchesi said.
Each van has a name
Orange Sky Laundry’s first van in 2014 — Sudsy — would break down every few days.
In 2016 they have 10 vans throughout the country with each named before being sent to its new location.
“The van we’re taking down south will end up in Hobart and has currently been called Spudsy, but we’re still on the hunt for a name,” Mr Marchesi said.
“Our other vans names are — Cathy in Brisbane, Sudsy is on the Sunshine Coast, Bubbles on the Gold Coast, Peggy in Adelaide, Dasher in Canberra, Jelly Baby in Melbourne and Jellyfish in Perth.
“Our favourite would have to be Sudsy, as he has a lot of character and sometimes his doors don’t open, but he goes out now on every shift on the Sunshine Coast.”
Both Mr Marchesi and Mr Patchett said their everyday work did not feel like work due to the passion they both had for what they were trying to achieve.
“Everyday I’m lucky enough to work with my best friend and we’re volunteers who get to create and challenge ourselves,” Mr Patchett said.
Mr Marchesi agreed and said working closely with volunteers only strengthened their want to do more.
“We’re a part of something we stand for and to be at the forefront of that has always been exciting,” he said.
The tour will leave Brisbane from Queen Street Mall at 9:00am on Monday.