Australia recently marked our national day and that meant announcing those honoured in the Australia Day awards. Among them this year was an award for couple of young social entrepreneurs who came up with a simple, world first, idea that has helped give back some dignity to hundreds of homeless people across the country.

Named Young Australians of the Year for 2016, Queenslanders Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett are the founders of the Orange Sky Laundry, a free mobile laundry which, run by volunteers, provides laundry services to those sleeping rough.

PICTURE: Website

Launched in September, 2014, when the two were just around 20-years-old, the organisation now operates five vans in Brisbane, Melbourne, south-east Victoria, Sydney and on the Gold Coast and has recently launched in Perth.

More than 270 volunteers operate the machines (each van contains two commercial washing machines and two dryers) which stop at 36 different locations and wash more than 350 loads every week.

As well as providing homeless people with clean clothes, the citation for the award says the laundry has also facilitated "countless hours of conservation each week" as it brings people from all walks of life together.

"Nic and Lucas have found a way to treat others the way they want to be treated by restoring respect, raising health standards and reducing the strain on resources," it says.

The men, who have also used the vans to help people in the aftermath of natural disasters - intend continuing to expand the service, which is funded through donations, and government and private company sponsorship, with plans for new vans in Tasmania, Adelaide and Darwin.

And the impact on those at whom it's aimed?

"Every time you put clean clothes on you feel better," 36-year-old Steve Cook told The Age newspaper when using the service for the first time in Melbourne last year. "You don't look like a Chat (bad), you don't feel dirty. You feel better about yourself."


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