Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett

2016 Young Australians of the Year

Social entrepreneurs

Best mates Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett launched Orange Sky Laundry in 2014 as the world’s first free mobile laundry service for people experiencing homelessness. Orange Sky has since expanded from its original location in Brisbane to 31 additional locations across Australia and now includes shower services too.

Each week, thousands of volunteers come together at these various locations to positively connect with the community through genuine and non-judgmental conversations. These connections and conversations have restored respect among people from all walks of life and improved the lives of others.

We spoke to Nic about receiving the 2016 Young Australian of the Year Award, his greatest lesson in resilience and what he’d like people to better understand about those experiencing homelessness.

What did it mean to be named Young Australian of the Year?

It was a real privilege to represent Orange Sky. We saw the awards as an acknowledgement of the support needed for a significant problem in our communities. Lucas and I feel that it was in recognition of our passionate volunteers and of our friends who trust us with their worldly possessions. In 2016, we had four vans and 270 volunteers. The awards helped us grow that to 11 vans and over 700 volunteers by the end of that year.

When did you recently see courage in action?

What Australians do really well is step up in times of need. This has been a massive year for Australians with the bushfires and pandemic. We’ve seen courage every day in our donors, our volunteers and most importantly, in our friends who show up and participate in the Orange Sky community.

We all have our own fears during this time but people have found the courage to continue supporting us and each other. We’ve had to change a few things in our operations during COVID-19 and our donors, volunteers and friends have been super understanding about those changes.

What has been your greatest lesson in resilience?

One of the key lessons is that making mistakes builds resilience. Being supported by people in a safe environment when you do make those mistakes is also really important to building resilience.

What would you like people to better understand about the community you work with?

That they come from so many walks of life and like us, they’re all different. It’s about how we embrace that uniqueness and understand how to support someone who is on a different path than we are.

Why does the Australian of the Year Award matter?

There are people from all walks of life in Australia. The award lets us take inspiration from ordinary people in the community who are doing great work.

These people then have a chance to share, inspire and encourage others to do great work of their own.

Nominate an inspiring Australian

Do you know someone who deserves recognition? Nominate them for the 2021 Australian of the Year Awards. Nominations close 31 July 2020.