Brisbane charity washes up in regional first

A Brisbane-based charity offering free mobile laundry services to the homeless has announced its expansion into regional Queensland to combat a skin condition that has been called an "epidemic" in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The first regional Queensland centre for Orange Sky was unveiled on Saturday, with the 'Phytham' truck ready to head to Lockhart River, more than 750 kilometres north of Cairns.

The truck has been named after a local rock which, according to the Dreamtime, protects the town of Lockhart River.

Orange Sky founders Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett said the truck was a trial for Orange Sky's plans to expand into regional areas across the country to combat scabies, a contagious and itchy skin condition caused by a burrowing mite.

The idea was sparked when the duo were at a conference in Melbourne 18 months ago and an audience member raised the issue of a scabies "epidemic" in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Mr Patchett said the methods of preventing the spread of scabies were hygiene, education and ointment.

"By having a leading edge in laundry we can deliver those services to the communities and encourage conversation around the vans to educate people about scabies," he said.

"Every community is very different, but there are common threads with hygiene and education. Being on six-wheels, we feel we can really respond."

The Phytham truck also displays three pieces of artwork from members of the Lockhart River Art Gang - Rosella Namok, Fiona Omeenyo and Silas Hobson.

Orange Sky began with one van holding a handful of washing machines and dryers going around Brisbane parks. Three years later the charity has 20 vehicles across the country, more than 1000 volunteers and washes 6.2 tonnes of laundry every week.

The charity was started by Mr Marchesi and Mr Patchett in 2014, with the pair inspired to "help people in our own backyard" having been involved in a food van during their schooling years.

"We started it as a fun garage project in Brisbane to give back to the community, but the power of social media and stories helped gained interest," Mr Patchett said.

In 2016, Orange Sky trialled a mobile shower van initiative to add to their homeless services on offer.

This story Brisbane charity washes up in regional first first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.