Barunga laundry celebrates four years

Today the Barunga laundry turns four!

Opened in 2019, the Barunga laundry was the Remote Laundries pilot program. Four years later, the community cannot imagine life without it.

Barunga Traditional Owner and Chairperson of the Bagala Aboriginal Corporation (BAC) Esther Bulumbara, has been there from the beginning. It was at a BAC Board meeting with AIG that the idea of the laundry was first floated. Everyone agreed that it was something that would add value to their lives in both the potential health outcomes and employment potential. A small idea but a big solution.

Set inside a 20ft shipping container, the easy-to-operate laundry has four industrial-sized washers and dryers and sits proudly next to the Bagala Community Store in Barunga, about 80km southeast of Katherine.

The laundry’s value to the community is clear by the pride of the people who work there, the high usage of the machines, the absence of vandalism and the conviction of health staff that it is making a difference to the overall health of the community. Since the laundry was installed, scabies presentations at the health clinic in Barunga have fallen a whopping 60 per cent.

Since 2019, the laundry has spun 13 937 cycles and injected over $167 000 of wages into the community. And incredibly, the laundry has operated at 93 per cent capacity since its inception, a true indication of the pride of the five staff now employed at the laundry.

Couldn’t do it without them
With the project from the start, Finicole “Fini” Coleman and Frederick “Freddie” Scrubby are also celebrating their fourth anniversary.

Like many communities, Freddie has seen programs come and go from Barunga. But when asked about the laundry, he was quick to respond, “The laundry won’t go anywhere. The community needs it too much. It’s not only the community who love it but people from the outside. Tourists, education mob, from other communities, bring uniforms to wash – sports gear and that.”

Freddie is a storyteller and likes nothing better than community mob visiting the laundry for more than the washing service.

“Some come, sit down, have a yarn, ask how I run this business, and then I explain it. I don’t mind how long they sit and yarn with me. In the long run, they might want to join me and work here,” explains Freddie.

“I show them how to do their own washing. Show them, and next time when they come, they can do their own clothes.”

Fini recalls the ability to help the community to fight scabies as the main reason she applied for the job at the laundry.

“I wanted to help people in the community,” said Fini.

“Before the laundry, some people didn’t have a washing machine at home. Countrymen used to go to other community members to use their machines. They don’t have to do that now.

“We have helped the clinic mob too you see. If the laundry wasn’t here, scabies might come back again. I don’t want to go and work anywhere else.”

Watch the documentary
To get a real insight into the impact the laundry has had on the Barunga community, you can hear from Freddie, Esther and Sunrise Health in our Remote Laundries documentary