UQ engineering student named Young Australian of the Year
Selfless work creating change for homeless people has propelled a University of Queensland student to be named Young Australian of the Year
Bachelor of Engineering/Bachelor of Commerce student Lucas Patchett and business partner Nic Marchesi established Orange Sky Laundry, a free mobile clothes-washing service for the homeless.
The pair jointly won the prestigious national award at the Australian of the Year Awards in Canberra on Jan. 25, where winners were announced in four categories.
Mr Patchett and Mr Marchesi were announced as the Queensland Young Australians of the Year in November. At that time, Mr Patchett said he was shocked to receive the state awards.
“I’ve been blown away by the support we’ve been getting and seeing how generous people are,” Mr Patchett said.
Orange Sky Laundry began in September 2014 when the two best mates converted an old van into a mobile laundromat which they drove around Brisbane.
Last year they took their mobile laundry to North Queensland to wash clothes in cyclone-ravaged communities.
“We’re now washing more than 200 loads each week,” Mr Patchett said. “We also have to say thank you to our 250-plus volunteers, who are fantastic.”
The UQ engineering student said his work with Mr Marchesi was about more than just washing clothes.
“One of the first guys we helped actually studied engineering like me,” Mr Patchett said. “But after some bad luck in life he ended up on the street, and that really opened our eyes to the massive issue of how easily homelessness can happen.
“We really want to start a national conversation.”
In just over a year, services have expanded rapidly, with four vans now running in Brisbane as well as the Gold Coast and in Victoria.
The pair plans to expand across Australia and to introduce a training and employment model.
Another UQ student, Tasman Bain, was a finalist in the Queensland Young Australian of the Year awards.
Mr Bain has founded a youth-led women’s rights initiative in Papua New Guinea, served as a UNICEF youth ambassador and volunteered for many charitable organisations.