Better known as “The Gateway to the Outback”, Bourke is a small remote town surround by, well, the outback. Situated on the Darling River around 800km from Sydney it is the traditional home to the Ngemba people and the heart of the Agriculture and Livestock divisions. There are so many interesting things to know and learn about the town but none more so then the small charity called Bourke Laundry Services.  

So, what is so special about a Laundry Service in the outback? Fair question, let me explain. Founded over twenty years ago the core value of the charity is to support people within the community whom live with disabilities while giving them a sense of purpose in an otherwise rather isolated town. It is also home to the local Return and Earn return point!  

Bourke Laundry Services were the very first Over The Counter collection point to be established within the scheme in December 2017. Since the beginning, the response to the Return & Earn within the Bourke Shire has been welcomed by the community with open arms. Opening the return point on December 7 and filling their first 20ft container in only a matter of days the business quickly found themselves in need of additional staff to handle the influx of business. Local Community groups have helped on a volunteer basis when it gets extremely busy which has been an asset to Bourke Laundry Service to keep the containers leaving town on a regular basis.

Collecting just over 1.6 million bottles since opening the return point has given the business the chance to offer members of the public living with disabilities employment thus providing them with a sense of pride and inclusion in an otherwise rather secluded area. 

While the site has only gone from strength to strength the township itself has faced many struggles. Over the past 3 years, Bourke has dealt with crippling drought which has sadly seen businesses within the township struggle, and families whom their lives depended on livestock and agriculture fall apart. Yet the community spirit remains alive and strong and with the availability of the Return andd Earn in the town many customers have found new ways to put those few extra dollars in their pocket and perhaps purchase that little treat they haven’t had for so long.

Bourke Public School has used the return point to raise funds for the schools needs and events along with residents raising funds for the local hospital and various other causes. The local Pre School uses the recycling money to purchase items they need for the little garden the children look after.

Parents within the region whose children attend boarding schools often up to 1000 kilometres  from home have used the return point to raise pocket money for their children and even put towards school related needs and excursions.

Many residents whom have found themselves unemployed have also found the Return & Earn of great use making just enough to cover their basic needs in an already tough time. Some of the senior citizens also subsidise their pension by collecting recycling. Every bit helps when you’re on the pension one old dear says every time she collects her money.

While the benefits of the return point within the Shire have all been very positive it’s the benefit to the Charity itself we are most proud of. Living in such an isolated town, it could be quite easy to feel forgotten for those living with disabilities however through the incredible efforts of Bourke Laundry Services those members of the community have been given equal and fair opportunities as well as support that they wouldn’t have normally had.

Ahead for Bourke Laundry Service

Looking into the future, the site sees themselves being busier as time goes on. Originally it was only allowing a certain number, now people are bringing in as many as they want. The community has embraced the guidelines on recycling and this makes it so much easier for Bourke Laundry Service to process them quicker. This in turn is leading to more containers heading to Sydney for recycling. In the long term the area that is used for the recycling will be fully renovated making it a much more pleasant place to work and also deposit recycling.

 The customers from outlying properties travel hundreds of kilometres into Bourke for their grocery needs and at the same time drop off their recycling. The next time they come to town they collect their money or it can be deposited into their bank account. This stops them having to dig giant holes and bury their rubbish. Not as much landfill on these properties now.

Recently the Bourke Laundry Service was able to employ a person whose only role is to look after the recycling. This person books in all the orders, sorts them, counts, packs the bags and consolidates the container for collection. This frees up other staff to work in the laundry

Bourke Laundry Service is grateful for the opportunity to be able to provide this service to our community but also making a difference to the pollution control of our wonderful outback. The more that is recycled the less goes into land fill at the local tip.