Two mates from Brisbane with a simple idea to help the homeless have been named the Young Australians of the Year.

Orange Sky Laundry founders Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, both just 21 years old, are the first joint winners of the award.

They started their free mobile laundry service for the homeless out of the back of an old van in 2014, and have now expanded to five vans operated across 36 locations in five cities, run by more than 270 volunteers.

The boys were inspired to start the service after seeing how often homeless people were overlooked in the community.

“There is a lot of disconnect with the homeless,” Nic told Bmag last year.

“The van not only provides them with clean clothes, it improves their health, makes them feel respected and reduces the strain on resources.

“It’s also a place they can come and have a chat in a non-judgemental place and see regular faces.”

Orange Sky Laundry vans are equipped with a washer and dryer and regularly visit drop-in centres, parks and community centres, alongside other charities.

“We work in collaboration with other charities, so our friends on the street can grab something to eat, have a chat and have their clothes washed at the same time,” Nic said.

When accepting the award, Lucas said the laundry service began with the aim of providing “clean clothes and conversation”, but after 70,000 kilos of washing it’s become so much more.

“We can restore respect, raise health standards and be a catalyst for conversation,” Lucas said.

“We have found a way to treat others how they want to be treated.”

For more information about volunteering with Orange Sky Laundry, visit