#56 We said yes to everything – Lucas Patchett, CEO, Orange Sky | Mental Health Training

Oct 27, 2023

Lucas Patchett, the CEO of Orange Sky, co-founded this charity that is dedicated to a simple service, which provides an opportunity for Australians doing it tough to connect through regular laundry and shower services. Although still in his 20’s, Lucas has achieved more in life than many 60 year olds. As you will hear – it hasn’t always been easy – and they have needed lots of resilience to try – fail – learn and grow. Lucas also outlines a simple thing we can all do when we encounter a homeless person on the street. He has achieved a huge amount after being in the workforce for less than 10 years.
"Care in the workplace is the space where we've been able to mature and grow. There’s also a care element that we have towards our donors, people that give and support us, which enable us to do what we do, and that care between staff and team members, which is really critical for workplace culture, organisational commitment, and resilience."
- Lucas Patchett


  • What caring means in the workplace for Lucas
  • Dedication to a simple service
  • The resilience to try – fail – learn and grow
  • What we can all do when we encounter a homeless person on the street


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Transcript from the interview

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Graeme Cowan, Lucas Patchett

Graeme Cowan  01:07

It’s a real privilege to welcome Lucas Patchett, to The Caring CEO. Welcome, Lucas.

Lucas Patchett  01:24
Thanks for having me.


Graeme Cowan  01:26
Lucas, you’re the founder of Orange Sky, which incorporates you know, running a not for profit, as well as volunteers. So what does care in the workplace mean to you?


Lucas Patchett  01:40

I think it’s such a broad and varied term for us at Orange Sky applies for our volunteers who are out on the streets providing a very caring service in terms of providing washing and showers, but most importantly, conversation for people who are doing it tough, you know, in our community. So the care that they provide is evident and really obvious, I think, then it’s the care that we provide to those volunteers around when they have those tough days are when they have those challenging moments, and how that we’ve been able to mature and grow in that space as well. And then there’s obviously a care element that we have towards our donors, people that give to us, people that support us, and that eventually, essentially enable us to do what we do. And then obviously, that care between staff and team members as well, which is really critical for workplace culture, and organizational commitment and resilience and all those sorts of things as well. So I think, yeah, care is orange guys, essentially an organization built on care built on trust. And so we try and live that as best we can across everything that we do. And that is all those interactions and stakeholders that make up.


Graeme Cowan  02:52

For our listeners, can you just explain what Orange Sky does for those that may not be familiar with you?


Lucas Patchett  02:58

Absolutely. So Orange Sky. We started nine years ago with a crazy idea up in Brisbane to chuck two washers, two dryers in the back of a van and start washing drying clothes for people experiencing homelessness for free. And so that was where it started from. But then very quickly, we evolved with lots of people reaching out wanting to help us grow and helping more more communities. We figured out that the Washington was really important, but actually the conversation and connection that happened on our vans and sitting down on one of our orange chairs was the most important thing that we could do. So we branch out of the showers, we branched out into remote First Nations Health, with provision of our services as well. And also disaster recovery. And to the point now where we’ve got just shy of 60 services across Australia and New Zealand, across 4040 different locations got touch over 3000 volunteers every week, we’re doing about 2000, loads of washing 150 safe hot showers, but most importantly, about two and a half 1000 hours of conversation that take place. So that’s the simple idea that’s kind of blossomed and grown over time and now thankful to be a part of an amazing team making a big impact.


Graeme Cowan  04:02

It’s extraordinary. You know how your reach and impact has grown and full congratulations to you and your co founder. It’s an amazing expansion and reached an impact. Where did the name Orange Sky come from?


Lucas Patchett  04:19

Orange Sky is actually the name of the song by a fellow whose name is Alexei Murdock. And he talks about in his song, our own sky, helping out your brothers and sisters and everyone’s standing underneath an Orange Sky together. And for Nick and I we love the song. We love the color. We’re not religiously or politically associated. So we we put on the first name Sunday and off we went and we couldn’t think of any other any other better names, to be honest. So sort of work worked for us at the time and just held held true since then.


Graeme Cowan  04:45

It’s amazing, isn’t it? Because it’s a very memorable line. You know, I think you’d only hear it once or twice and you know what it was or know where it relates to. So that’s, you know, a wonderful achievement it just sort of, you know, appeared relatively easily, but it was obviously spot on and really reflected what you do. Like yourself. And Nick, were how old when you started this initiative? 20. Extraordinary. And how did it happen? What was the conversation between you that led to launching the first van and the two washing machines in there?


Lucas Patchett  05:22

Yeah, like I mentioned, Nick and I were best mates in high school. And at school, we actually volunteered on a food ban that our school ran for people doing it tough. So I can remember being 15 Jumping in the band driving two case from where we went to school every day and chatting to people who had slept in the park or who was in Crisis Accommodation around that park that we went to. And so we both had this similar experience when we’re 15 or 16. And, and that was a really formative moment for us of saying, Well, why is this such a big issue in our own backyard, just like, say a couple of cases and where we go to school every day, there’s so many people who are struggling to get by. So that sort of planted the seed for especially meeting people in those early times and hearing a bit about their story and relating them to your uncle or your mom or your granddad or whoever it might be. And so yeah, that really stood with us stuck with us. And as we sort of went into the, your early 20s, of studying full time, Nick was working full time. And we sort of always talked about this idea of how could we reengage that part of our brain and get our mates involved with what we used to do. And it’s such a cool way to give back. But it wasn’t also to overburdens them as well. So that really simple, tangible way to give back and, but also really want to replicate and duplicate what had already been happening. So they’re naked sketches idea of a couple of washing machines in the back of a truck. And then I said, mate, let’s do it. Let’s give it a crack and an off off of it.


Graeme Cowan  06:55

And what happened on that very first day?


Lucas Patchett  07:00

Yeah, well, depending on what you call our first day, we had a few false starts, the first morning, we rocked up, we’d spent a couple of weekends fitting this whole van out, we thought that, you know, the laundromat supplies company who was generously donating the washers and dryers to us would, would build it and sort of fit everything out. But when we went to drop the van off, they present us with two washers, two dryers in boxes still. So we’re like, Okay, well guess we got to figure it out, which then meant sorting out the power for chatting to a friend of a friend who’s an electrician who can help us thinking about water and wastewater as well and trying to resolve all those technical challenges. So we sort of spent a couple of weekends 20 trips back and forth to the hardware store, picking up all the different supplies and then realizing you forget something and heading straight back. And then we hit the streets first morning, alongside that old school food in and then went to the fire everything up, all the machines broke. We went back to the drawing board, got some new machines from the supplier went back again the next morning, same thing happened again. So it had two false starts in a row. And so on the third morning, though, we eventually got everything working as a fella by name and Jordan, who was there who was our first Washington who was actually there on the first morning as well. And he, for whatever reason, still trusted us with it with his only possessions in the world. And I’d say there’s a combination of a lots of failures. But eventually we got it up and running. And then that really set the tone for us for the future because conversation I had with Jordan who went to school just at the right for me studying the same degree at the same university that I was partway through studying. And so it was a really formative, another one of those formative conversations where you go, Oh, crap, like, this is someone that is a future projection of me. And actually, the laundry was the, the way into that conversation and to build that connection, and pretty quickly. So that sort of set the tone for many more washes and conversations to come.


Graeme Cowan  08:56

And did you envisage it just being something on the side? Or did you always think it could be a full time passion for you?


Lucas Patchett  09:05

Definitely not like we originally thought, you know, would prototype this in our event, Nick actually owned the van, we ran different projects out of that. And we sort of said, Oh, this is a better idea. Let’s, let’s, let’s give it a go. And maybe one day, we’ll get a new van for Brisbane. And we’ll just keep it pretty in the backyard. In our own backyard. So thanks supporting people. And then, like I mentioned, we did the first wash. We chucked a few photos up on social media, we did a little bit of media as well. And then all of a sudden had this massive influx of people from all around the country and the world saying we need this in our city. How can we make it happen? And that might be someone who lived and was looking to use a service like that might have been someone who’s keen to volunteer or might have been someone who’s keen to support it as as well. So yeah, we had this like explosion of people wanting to reach out and support and I remember after about six months Um, who’s who’s pretty heavily involved. And as of next month, early on, as you do when you’re starting anything, you need good advice and trusted people. So start with that woman. And she was like, Okay, boys, we need to stop stuffing around, we’re going to write, write a business plan. And we’re going to, you know, we need to actually take this bit more seriously and start leveling up. And, and I remember she, she wrote the whole thing, like, good Mom’s doing doing assignments for us. And the right, you know, we’re going to put 10 bands on the road, we’re going to raise a million dollars in the next 12 months. And then Nick and I were like, there’s no bloody way that that’s going to happen. We’re just sort of wheeling and dealing, just figuring it, figuring it out as we go along. And just, you know, just really just flying by the seat of our pants. And as we close that year out, we’d actually hit about 60% over that in revenue, and an extra three bands. So we went from one to 13 bands that year. And so all of a sudden, we had this moment of like, oh, wow, like we’re actually this is a trajectory that we’re setting and growing for the future as well. So I think, never thought it would, but then, early on, we had these really early signs that we could really take it and scale it to where it is now. Yeah,


Graeme Cowan  11:08

yeah. And as things grew and expanded, you mentioned the first few got up to 16 Vans. And obviously, there’s a lot more people, a lot more logistics, a lot more organization involved. But you have growing pains on the way.


Lucas Patchett  11:23

Yeah, absolutely. And we’re still having them now. I think every especially in those early days, like, every new service you’d add, or every new team member, it’s almost like you’re starting again. And you’ve got to redefine the old structure and where everyone fits in and how it grows and scales as well. And when you’re four people in a room, managing a whole team of, you know, a couple 100 volunteers versus where we are now. Like, it’s really you need to keep evolving and changing that. I think, definitely had big scaling challenges from from the start, I think a really key time was when we launched into Melbourne, which is at the third service, the first who was Brisbane and the Gold Coast. So relatively close to home and made some funding interest in Melbourne, we said, okay, let’s, let’s give it a go. And I think it was a, we had a, we had a really defined start and end date in terms of, well, we had a flight, we drove the van down and we had a flight out. And we had to essentially build the service and hand the keys over to someone before we left in the same way that before we left Brisbane, we had to hand the keys over to a local team of volunteers. And that was a really key decision we made early on was around having volunteer led and run services. So still to this day, we don’t have a staff member in Melbourne, but we’ve got multiple services in Melbourne. And that’s really made and run by by the community. So definitely had those those moments. But we went into Melbourne had an end date of about a month that we had to be back I’d be back to uni, actually, I think it was and and over that time were able to build the service, bring volunteers on and then let it really sought to be locally owned and operated in saying that we had lots of challenges within that. But proud to say that seven, eight years on now in Melbourne service still pumping.


Graeme Cowan  13:11

And as you grew, what have you, you’re so for Nick, think about culture, and you work a lot with volunteers. What did you want them to do or to represent?


Lucas Patchett  13:27

Yeah, it’s really interesting one, we had lots of lessons early on in that space. And I think early on, we did all the training face to face, either nick or I or both of us run it ran it together. And so I think in in revisiting that and really putting out there know, what we want from from volunteers is really, really important. But also, we needed to very quickly realize that it couldn’t just be all this like word of spoken word, sort of thing. Like we need to start articulate and work through. I think the really interesting thing with volunteers like of our 3000 volunteers, the majority of them, which would be in the 80 or 90%, mark their time commitment to open skies, two hours a fortnight, I think that’s really important when we’re, when we’re thinking about volunteers is that it’s not a staff member that, you know, this is a significant part of that every day, it’s actually a significant part of their life, but it’s only once a fortnight or once a week that they might be might be doing it. So from their perspective, they don’t want to learn mission, vision values, all these all these, like all these things that are obviously really important from an organizational perspective. But actually, it’s it’s a, I believe it’s an unrealistic expectation that you have that under the volunteers memorizing all these different things. And the thing that I think, has really stood the test of time and it’s something I’m really proud of in our volunteer community when we think about culture is one of I think it’s probably the third or fourth slide of our training, and it’s still a key part of our training, and it goes up on the screen. Always get some giggles where it says we’re not fans of the C word, but we love the F word. And then everyone sort of has a bit of a giggle. And then the C word is clients and customers, and the F word is friends. And so, and that’s the lesson of, well, that’s what we call the people that use our service is friends. And I think that that simple language, really like, again, it’s impossible get 100%. But I’d say 90% of our volunteers have that really ingrained. And when I met whenever I’m actually talking about, oh, you know, this friend did this and an X, Y, and Zed, and I think, but just that one word, really articulates like the service, we want to provide who we are as an organization, and it’s not this power dynamic, where delivering something new or something, or vice versa. It’s really like a mutually beneficial, like service that we’re providing. And the volunteers, I don’t think many could recite our mission or values, but they know the word friends. And I think that that was something that we definitely flute early on, have had it in there, it was memorable was kind of laugh, got a laugh, so people remembered it, but has translated into the test of time really well.


Graeme Cowan  16:10

I love that as well. It’s sort of yeah, just implies that there is that sort of connection care, wanting to take care of others. You know, one word can mean a lot. And I love the way that you position. And what was on that slide again,


Lucas Patchett  16:28

we’re not fans of the C word, but we love them f1 clients and custom clients customers see, well, if being friends. It’s brilliant, absolutely fantastic. I know. And that was born out of Nick and I go into lots of services early on and, and hearing people talk about customers or patrons or clients and, and it just inherently puts this power imbalance in of like, Hey, you’re receiving something from us, and we’re giving it to and you’ll take it. And I think that that was something that we didn’t want to we didn’t want to embed from the start because yes, there is an there still is this power imbalance. But how do we actually moderate that as much as we can?


Graeme Cowan  17:07

Yeah. And in those first couple of years, what were some of the key things that you learned from your friends, the people that you serve?


Lucas Patchett  17:18

Okay, I think there’s so many assumptions about people experiencing homelessness or doing a top and now, even now where we never use the word homeless, because that’s a label. And it’s homelessness, experiencing homelessness should be a temporary state. But even now, that definition expand into even more so hardship, and we’re seeing more people than ever before engaging with our services and coming to us and they don’t see orange skies or homelessness service, they see us as a support service for people. And that’s the you’re playing further up the line of people that are struggling to make ends meet. And their budgets sort of getting a bit bit more and more challenged every week. And so we can play a part in that. And then obviously, we can play a part in someone who’s rough sleeping as well. So it’s sort of that spectrum is really expanding, and reflecting Australia’s and the 6% of the homelessness statistics. So like there’s a huge misconception about about homelessness in Australia. So I think, from our friends, the key thing is was a general sense of misunderstanding or judgment, I think, from the broader community, and I’m Sky being a real disrupter, that sense of going well, the volunteers just here, they’re all friendly. I’m coming along, and chat, but also, I’m not forced to have a chat. And I’m not forced to sign anything or sign up for anything. It’s really this, this non hierarchical community of people coming coming together. So I think the positive response we get to that was really, really important. And also that it takes a lot for people to reach out for support, though, actually, there is a inherent price of inherent process of actually saying I need help. And so I think when you’ve got homeless, written on the side of events, or whatever it actually like makes it even harder and puts puts even greater barriers up. So I think there’s probably some of the things I learned pretty early on is, and then also how quickly it can happen. Now for Jordan. He was an engineer works in big firms had a medical bill fell short with his rent, and also he was out on the streets and didn’t have that family support network around him. And that that’s such a common thing that I’ve seen for the nine years and it’s been exacerbated by different reasons. The last six months has been around cost of living and rental crisis, but it’s a consistent one or two little things happen and all sudden you don’t have that support network and you’re on your own. Yeah.


Graeme Cowan  19:46

I saw one of your promotional videos and I talked about a lot of people walk past those that are homeless or are sitting on the street or have a cup out for donations. What would you say to people what Firstly, why do you think there is that reluctance to engage? And what advice would you give to people from your experience now?


Lucas Patchett  20:10

It’s another really tough one. And and I think that’s part of the people’s stereotypes and stigmas are built from the fire people, you might walk paths on your way to work or off the train, or whatever it might be. And that can be a really confronting and challenging, challenging experience. I think what I always say is, and what I always personally do is actually just acknowledge and look someone in the eye and say, G’day, and that doesn’t mean I need to stop and have a big, big chat or anything. But actually, for someone who isn’t that position, then sometimes that can be because I’m not someone who personally, like, will give given those situations, but I think it’s actually about acknowledgement, and, and potentially even having a conversation as well. When I have stuff in the past. I know that, you know, speaking of some of the majority people have heard on Albert Einstein, because in those communities that we operate, they’re pretty small communities, in the grand scheme of things. So it’s a good, good conversation to have, especially if I’m wearing a shirt already as well.


Graeme Cowan  21:15

Yes, definitely, definitely. How do you and Nick, manage your week? How do you split up what you do?


Lucas Patchett  21:26

Yeah, that’s taken lots of lots of different forms over the last nine years. But about two and a half years ago, now, we made a definite split in our roles. So prior to that, in the last former joint managing directors, whereas now I’ve stepped into CEO role, and except into what we call chief Delta officer, which essentially is new projects and innovations for Orange Scott. So that’s anything from we’ve just rolled out a suite of upgrades across all the events to operate off solar and battery powered. And we’ve been able to do that by essentially inventing our own cluster. And so something like that started life in Nick’s head, which then went to prototype to design for them to then scale up. So as an example of those things that we do, my role now is taken up with a good chunk of time, sort of working with the team in terms of our key teams, being that delta innovation team, our marketing fundraising team, our operations team, and then our sort of corporate support team as well, which says, My waist is always buried, which is, which is always always good fun. And then spend a good chunk of time as well from an external perspective, in terms of like, filling philanthropic relationships, and big corporate relationships and stuff as well. So kind of go with go where needed. And Nick and I still have a good chunk of kind of shared co founder duties, which things like media and stuff like that, then we’ll kind of do do together or split, divide and conquer as well. So the weeks are all pretty, very lucky enough that we’ve got an awesome team in place that handles a lot of what we do. But then some stuff will need to come back to me as CEO is at the moment, or nickname as well as


Graeme Cowan  23:06

how many employees? Do you have full time employees?


Lucas Patchett  23:10

About About 5050?


Graeme Cowan  23:12

Yeah, that’s that’s a job in itself if the employees and also, you know, they ever see 3000 volunteers, so there’s lots of moving parts, lots of moving parts


Lucas Patchett  23:25

that were never short of a interesting scenario, I’d say that many people day doing stuff in far reaching places.


Graeme Cowan  23:36

And what were you know, when you think about your journey now from, you know, just one band to 50, Star 3000 volunteers? What have been some of the setbacks and real hardships along the way?


Lucas Patchett  23:52

Yeah, I think, has been planning. If I think about the biggest one, or like the toughest day, I had an iron sky was was definitely a march 2020. When we went all the whole world was changing really rapidly. There’s new ins, bits of advice, flying around, everyone’s kind of doing, doing different things. And then we made the decision as a leadership team to press pause on our shifts across Australia and New Zealand. So went from doing about 900,000 shifts a month to zero, overnight, which is a, which then you go, Hey, we’ve got at that point, about 2000 volunteers. They are 1000s of friends that are relying on us and then all of a sudden, we’ve had to make that decision from a health and safety and community perspective, which for an organization that was that’s built on. People from all walks of life congregating in public spaces for a couple of hours, the pandemic was was really a really challenging time for us, I think. Yeah, that was definitely one of the one of the toughest times and then the really two and a bit years but probably that first six months from a team and they leadership perspective was one of those fastest times of growth and learning that I’ve had, but also being able to navigate through with, with our team as well.


Graeme Cowan  25:10

If you had any good, you know, mentors or advisors that have you been able to bounce ideas off and and come away with some new thoughts.


Lucas Patchett  25:19

Yeah, plenty. And again, it’s been interesting. Thinking back over that time of, you know, over the last nine years, we’ve had plenty of different answers play different roles. And I think, as I’ve been able to scale, you always need to bring those different people for different parts that journey, because obviously, some people are really, in that startup and scale up world and others are in that more refinement, and growth and evolution phase as well. So had been lucky enough to have plenty of awesome people. In our networks, I think, one from a staff and internal team, like really, I think one of you can migrate or call a float, but we’ve flipped it a few times now, which is which has been good of saying well, how would actually keep our capability capacity in whatever role that we’re playing, because at some point, we’re played every single roll around in Scotland. And at some point we go, I think this is getting a bit beyond kind of what I can find on the internet, or what I put into the self teacher where I can ask people for advice on so I need to get that next person in to help. So if that was, you know, from me doing our first cashflows, to then bring me in, obviously, more qualified and capable people of doing that stuff. And that and that example, applies across pretty much everything at arm’s length. So I think that ability to know when we’re kind of hitting our capability and capacity limit, and a good example of that, more recently is from a board perspective, which obviously growing quite rapidly started time it was like a family and friends are like people one degree of separation away from us that could help us get established. But as we started to get to millions of dollars of donations, and 1000s of volunteers, we need to really level level that up. So for instance, our current board chair, Andrew Fraser, been a tremendous mentor for me, personally, I’d love three and a half, four years has been playing with us. And that has really helped us to level up mature and grow as well. And I think that was symptomatic of us also having that moment of going, Oh, crap, we need to like, we need to evolve and we need to grow as well.


Graeme Cowan  27:23

I was involved in helping to start and grow Are you okay, so I have some perspective of the main running you have to do and the juggling, and you know, firefighting, and that, and that sort of thing. What, Where, where are your donations coming from?


Lucas Patchett  27:47

Yeah, again, that’s that that’s evolved over time, in a very early days, like in our first month, it was purely just people online, donating 20 bucks or 30 bucks in almost like a crowd funding source. As we started to mature a little bit, we started to get the really early adopter, like small trusts and foundations and slightly larger, larger gifts. And then the next evolution was really more corporate support once we’ve kind of grown a bit more of a footprint and grown that. And then at the same time, those other streams sort of growing alongside that. So now the split is pretty pretty much a four way split between corporate philanthropy, everyday people just giving to us and then community fundraising, as well. And then there’s a bits and pieces of other ones. But yes, powered by the community for the community in more ways than one.


Graeme Cowan  28:41

Yeah, I am. How do you look after your own self care? How do you keep fuel in your tank?


Lucas Patchett  28:54

Yes, I think multiple ways. I think from a, from a work sense, I think the biggest challenge we have is that we’re dealing with a really wicked problem. And we’re working in a really tough space and there’s lots of lots of sadness and despair in working with us basically, that we work in. So I think for us, as anyone as a volunteer as a staff member, it’s about knowing our place in that doing the best that we can within now patching within our resources and not getting too overwhelmed overburdened by the whole whole challenge but also that the scope of that change so for instance, for me personally, when we’re just trying a band in Brisbane to where we are now like that’s a different scope and different scale in terms of what our challenges in terms of actual practical things that I do like I love to exercise so got for running claim I head to the gym, to as my sort of put my headphones in and just have it as purely as me so I’m not a very social person in that way. And then outside that probably love to cook, love to hang out with mates and go live music and gigs and stuff like that. So I think a big thing for me is balance within all that. So Orange Sky, consumes a lot of my life, and I give a lot of my lifetime sky. But that’s because I want to and I’d love to. But also that means a bit of give and take of some weeks, it might be a bit crazy other ways to might be a bit more on might have a bit more time to pop out during the middle of the day to go to the gym, or whatever it might be. So I think that that balance is really important to me. And that’s something I try and embed with my team and then our teams as well to go, how do we get what is balanced look like for you. And I think that’s the other part is that, that’s so personal, because some people like to walk out the door, and not think about or talk about work. Other people want to leave early, or jump back on later after they’ve cooked dinner for the kids and might clean some stuff up then and that helps them get to sleep because they want to get it out of their head. Other people, you know, want a bit more of a wishy washy kind of fluid boundaries as well. So I think that actually having that conversation building that rapport and understanding early on for me, I’m a bit of a chameleon, I think of it probably depends on the week and the time and the what’s happening in the world. So try and just do what I know. And ultimately, know that I’m the only person that can rebalance and set that as well. So try and try and with that.


Graeme Cowan  31:29

When we started, are you okay, it was given like a new, he was the founder, the idea person had the slogan that a conversation could make could change your life, which, you know, has been sensational. But in the first couple of years, some of the traditional mental health charities viewed as a lot of caution, you know, they they thought that we didn’t have psychologists or, you know, medical professionals as part of the group, and a couple of the biggest brands, you know, didn’t want to be involved in collaborating in that first, that first year or two. Did you have any pushback from some of the other charities that work in the homeless space?


Lucas Patchett  32:16

Yeah, absolutely. I think anytime that there’s and it typically will come back to dollars, I think of when there’s a threat to someone’s funding, or when there’s a perception that you’re taking funding away from from them like that. I think people when I’ve seen people at their worst in terms of going on the offensive about bettering sky welfare believes in, there’s no competition with helping people. And actually, we just need to work more effectively together. But that hasn’t held true or doesn’t hold true for every organization, I think also in the homelessness space, and we were in that bucket to start with, there’s a lot of things, it’s got a lot of cool ideas that then either drift away and move into nothing. So you’re really well established charities who have been doing this work in the space for years and years have kind of seen the, the spike of interest and knows that, you know, we used to we used to go to mountain place in Sydney. And once a month, some random person walking paths would go and buy the pizzas and hand them out and just be like, hey, that should be the sugar head of helping. But then how does that actually fit into the broad picture and evolve and analysis thing? So yeah, we absolutely had that insight. I’m happy to say like we’re, we get less and less of that. We’ve now got people more trying to reach out and and partner more effectively with us as well. But yes, it’s definitely a, like I said, when there’s funding and people view it from a competitive perspective, and that’s part of the reason we’ve sort of stuck with the privately funded, like, we’re not playing too much in the government space. We’ve had a bit of government funding in the past, but we’re not playing too much in that space. And it’s because that’s something where it does get quite challenging across different areas and groups and all that sort of things.


Graeme Cowan  34:11

Yeah. So you’ve had, you’ve had some great achievements, obviously 2016 young Australians of the Year, and then 2020 Order of Australia. You’ve got that because you’ve helped, you know, 1000s of people through your volunteer network. What else do you feel is around any other areas that you’re really proud of besides those, those huge things? Is there anything else that you feel grateful or proud about?


Lucas Patchett  34:44

Yeah, I think there’s always this guilt factor when you’re getting significant award like that, that we we always say where does the idiots that started this and thought of it originally and then made it happen and Now there’s a convention at the start, there’s 3000 people a week, like we can’t be in 40 locations, the ones delivering that. So I think the thing I’m proudest of is that kind of movement that we’ve created, that connection that people have, to what we do. And the magic that happens out on shift. And I’m lucky enough to go out and shift as then last week in in Sydney and Melbourne and going to a place that I’d never been before, that every week in orange go van rocks up with three volunteers, and they help people in that community. And being like, that happens weekly, you know, three times a week, which is a really cool moment that you sort of pinch yourself moment again. Yeah, that’s a pretty special thing that that we’ve been part of. And I think the proudest things I have proudest moments I have is when you see something that you started, and maybe did a bad job at, and someone else has come in, stripped it back, rebuilt it and made it so much better and more effective, and then scale that across the across the country as well. So I think that’s definitely something that I’m super proud of. And then the other part is now as well, having a few more people working on different trials and projects that we’re looking at of saying how do we help more people? How do we help more people effectively. And that not starting from our brains, but then being other people bringing that to the table to and then volunteers and people getting donors getting excited about delivering that as well. So I think what must be proud of and lucky enough to have an awesome team that helps make it happen.


Graeme Cowan  36:38

You mentioned that, you know, you feel really proud of something that you’ve tried and hasn’t worked out. But someone else has looked at it reexamined that and made a success of it. Can you think of an example of that?


Lucas Patchett  36:53

Yeah, sure. We are second service, we actually were going to launch up in Cannes and Kansas got the second highest rate of homelessness in Australia after Brisbane. I should know. So I think it’s don’t quote me specifically on this. It’s, it’s, I think it’s highest in Queensland, Cannes, not not in Australia. It’s one or two. Anyway, so we’ve started Brisbane, we’re like, cool. The next spot, we’d already go too far in Kansas, as far as Melbourne is away from Brisbane. But we you know, we’re still figuring out geography. We’re not there. knew no one. It was a bloody slog, we couldn’t get established. Sort of couldn’t quite find the right operating rhythm and stuff for us to get in. And then the cyclone hit in Rockhampton, this is 2015. And so we said, well, we’re not making too much progress here. Let’s go the zipline and see if we can help more people, people there, went there, went to the cyclone and then came back to Brisbane and then that band actually went to the side going to the Gold Coast instead of being up again. So that was kind of the knot we couldn’t couldn’t make this happen. Fast forward four years, I believe that took and were established into lots more locations with sort of built with a bit more credibility and a bit more ability to deliver. And then we had a got funding and start the van up in Cannes. And I remember just going into like launch day, doing some media and chatting to a few people. And then seeing that, hey, we’ll a few other places that we spoke to four or five years ago that might not not have been as supportive when they are partnering with us and really keen for us to make it happen. So sort of this, I think cool reflection of one, the team did a much better job of setting it up to we’ve kind of evolved past that point as an organization where more people can can be a part of as same and I think the cyclone, which I’ll touch on is a similar example where first one we did we just rolled in, went to some houses that look like they’re struggling and said, How can we help and now that’s actually part of an activation from depending on the state government or different groups that actually bring us into those conversations. And then we mobilize in a really collaborative way, which, again, from being like we’re not having been Kansas pack up and go to Rocky has shifted significantly. And that’s been with us at arm’s length and the team has really


Graeme Cowan  39:15

it’s been a real pleasure talking with you, Lucas, and you know, just amazing what you and Nick have grown and achieved and full of admiration for, you know, all those milestones along the way. But I always finish by asking people knowing what you know now, what advice would have you given your 18 year old self? Just when you were talking about that first fan, just talking about what advice would you give yourself if you go back and share the wisdom you now have?


Lucas Patchett  39:49

Yeah, I think it’s lucky enough that it wasn’t too long ago which is, which is nice. And we were able to start not too long after that. I think when I reflect on it now, we had This perfect mix of naivety, and let’s just give it a go. And kind of we weren’t didn’t have kids or don’t have kids or mortgage or anything like that. So it’s almost it’s like a risk free bet. And and then we very much had the attitude, especially those first couple of years of just saying yes to everything. And it was just easier to say yes, and give it a go, then say no, and try and figure out a different way that to do something. So I think advice to a 10 year old Lucas is to is to listen to those instincts around, hey, let’s give it a crack and go into it blissfully naive, I’ll say to them, because you never know where that’s going to happen, where that’s gonna take you and I think I love the Steve Jobs speech that he did, where he says you can only connect the dots looking backwards, I think now looking back and going oh, well, when we did this, and how that fits in here and how that works and how that’s evolved and grow. Whereas at the time you go, ah, could be could turn into something, let’s, let’s give it a go. And not every time but most of the time, it turns into something or adds to that experience, which then shapes affects you moving forward as well. So that was that was long winded advice. Sorry. But um, hopefully a 10 year old Lucas, listen, listen.


Graeme Cowan  41:22

Great suggestions and insights. And thanks so much for Lucas for being part of the hearing CO are very much enjoyed our chat.


Lucas Patchett  41:30

Thanks so much for having me.


Graeme Cowan  41:34

Excellent. Thanks so much. We will probably get this one out. This episode out. Certainly before Christmas, we’ll let you know. And you might like to share it with some of your stakeholders and all that sort of stuff and body. But yeah, you know, I sincerely meant what I said that, you know, just extraordinary what you’ve done. So any, you know, I’m sure that partnership has been integral and I should have asked more about that. Actually. It’s been integral to the success.


Lucas Patchett  42:05

Yeah. Thank you. Well, thanks, Sam. And well, that’s super cool. And congrats on being part of it. Okay, starting it’s super inspirational stories. Well,


Graeme Cowan  42:15

Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. All the best. Awesome thanks.

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