Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Yarralin Country

Can you imagine not being able to access a washing machine regularly? Sadly, that’s the reality for many people living in remote First Nation’s communities. Seven out of ten Aboriginal children living in these remote communities will contract scabies before their first birthday. Community homes are overcrowded, 59% do not have washing machines and only 38% of people living in communities wash their clothing and bed linen. This is largely because of a lack of access to power and a regular supply of detergent.

In addition to the health benefits, ready access to clean clothes removes barriers to job and school attendance, encourages community social inclusion and provides an enhanced sense of self pride and purpose.

The North Australian Aboriginal Charitable Trust (NAACT) is the charitable arm of Aboriginal Investment Group (AIG), a registered charity and a genuine not-for-profit entity. NAACT is dedicated to the improvement and regeneration of remote Aboriginal communities and the creation of sustainable employment opportunities for Aboriginal people.

NAACT’s goal is to provide every Aboriginal person the opportunity to have clean clothes and a disease-free home.

That’s where the Remote Laundries Project comes in. It delivers fully automated, custom-built, commercial standard, fit-for-purpose laundries in remote Northern Territory Aboriginal community locations. The washing and drying cycles are provided at no cost, with detergent and chemical grade sanitiser automatically injected into the wash-cycle. Each laundry program site generates five sustainable meaningful positions, is 100% locally staffed and operates 38 hours per week across six days. The laundries allow every sector of the community to access clothes and bedding washing facilities, which increases quality of life by breaking community cycles of disease and sickness common in remote Aboriginal communities. This delivers clear tangible health, social and economic benefits.

It’s an innovative business model – a social enterprise – driven by Aboriginal people. Robust community consultation gives voice to those who will benefit from the project including Traditional Owners. AIG works in conjunction with the relevant on-site Aboriginal Corporation and is directed by this collaboration with Traditional Owners for all significant decisions about development and delivery.

While the majority of this project, valued at $742,000, comes from the Aboriginals Benefit Account, NAACT originally approached FRRR for a grant of $10,000 to go toward the cost of the machines. However, COVID delayed the whole project, including the release of other funding. The project managers and community representatives were keen to ensure that the machines were ready to go when restrictions lifted and other funding was released. The grant was funded, thanks to the support of the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, through the Strengthening Rural Communities program. NAACT applied for a variation of the original grant agreement, which allowed them to use the grant as a deposit to purchase the washing machine in advance of the Yarralin Remote Laundries Project’s commencement.

In their grant acquittal, Brittany Ciupka, Project Officer, said that FRRR was exceptional, quick to respond and flexible.

“We greatly appreciate FRRR allowing us to secure the machines while we finalised ABA negotiations. This will save large amounts of lead time as the machines ship from the USA. We are excited to forge ahead as soon as ABA gives us the green light and we will keep FRRR in the loop with project updates.”

While the laundry in Yarralin is not yet operational, there are four similar laundries already operating successfully in other remote communities, so FRRR looks forward to continuing to monitor the impact of this this innovative project. It should not only reduce disease but create jobs and income, leading Indigenous people to self-reliance. This in turn will lead to a more engaged, participating community and a stronger sense of place.

For more inspiring stories like this, head to our FY 2021/22 Annual Review.