The Bagala Laundry turns 5!

The Barunga community celebrated a simple, life-changing solution to improve health and wellbeing in their community, with the Bagala Laundry turning five yesterday.

Opened in 2019, the Bagala Laundry was the first in the Aboriginal Investment Group’s (AIG) Remote Laundries pilot program. Five years later, the community cannot imagine life without it.

Set inside a 20-foot 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.

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,” Ms Bulumbara said.

Aboriginal Investment Group CEO, Liz Morgan-Brett says the success of the project has been phenomenal.

Remote Laundries Program Manager, Candice Basham and AIG CEO Liz Morgan-Brett with laundry attendant, Frederick Scrubby.

 “The beauty of AIG’s Remote Laundries project is in its simplicity. The laundry provides free washing and drying for the community to reduce the prevalence of scabies and other skin infections and improve health and wellbeing,” Ms Morgan-Brett said.

“Within two years of operation, scabies presentation at Sunrise Health in Barunga had fallen by a whopping 60 per cent.

“In the five years of operation, the laundry has spun over 18,000 cycles and injected over $215,000 of wages into the community. And incredibly, the laundry has operated at 92 per cent capacity since its inception, a true indication of the pride of the ten staff employed by the laundry.”

Minister for Health, The Hon Selena Uibo MLA with laundry attendant, Frederick Scrubby.

As the Member for Arnhem, and Minister for Health, The Hon Selena Uibo MLA has visited the laundry since its inception.  

“I always look forward to stopping by the laundry when I visit Barunga,” said Minister Uibo.

“Impressively, AIG has provided the funding for the Bagala laundry for the past five years to ensure it remains free of charge with the Bagala Aboriginal Corporation, an incredible investment of over $2 million. We know that these programs work, and I look forward to seeing this model continue to grow throughout the Territory to improve skin health and employment opportunities in more communities.”

AIG now operate four laundries across the NT: Darwin, Bickerton Island, Angurugu and Barunga with Borroloola, Gunbalanya, Ngukurr, Lajamanu and Umbakumba next in line for a laundry.

The Remote Laundries Project is supported by NT PHN, National Heart Foundation of Australia, Flinders University,  Nestle Professional, Solar Living Homes, Katherine Laundry and Gremlin Electronics.

Esther Bulumbara (BAC) and Jolene Peacock (AIG)
Esther Bulumbara and Frederick Scrubby