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Can a laundry save a life?
Community|Author Luke Terry, Managing Director, Vanguard Laundry Services
16 February 2018

The AMP Foundation recently hosted a roundtable meeting for Vanguard Laundry Services at which Managing Director, Luke Terry, presented the findings of a report detailing the achievements of the ambitious social enterprise in its first year.

By Luke Terry

What if I told you that there was a laundry that had the power to transform? To improve the mental and physical health, the financial position, and the employment prospects of those who come into contact with it?

This isn’t a big budget sci-fi movie, it’s the story of Vanguard Laundry, another AMP Foundation community partner.

"Our little project has delivered big things in our first year, surpassing all expectations"

Vanguard Laundry Services is a purpose-built commercial laundry and career development centre, which aims to create jobs and career opportunities for people living with mental illness who struggle to secure work or who have never worked before.

We first opened our doors in November 2016 after securing a nine-year contract with St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Toowoomba and now clean 20 tonnes of linen a week for 90 commercial clients.

Our little project has delivered big things in our first year, surpassing all expectations.

Now, a new report, based on data collected by Aurora Elmes, a PhD student and Senior Research Assistant at the Centre for Social Impact, Swinburne, and funded by the AMP Foundation shows just how much Vanguard has achieved in our first year.

Vanguard employees

Almost 70% of Vanguard employees are male, with 60.9% experiencing both medical and physical health conditions.  Fewer than a third of the employees, whose median age was 44, had significant employment experience before starting work at Vanguard.  

Financial independence


The median fortnightly income of employees increased by $392 compared with six months prior to starting employment. One employee said: “I’ve been able to buy myself a brand new fridge, washer and a computer. It’s opened up a whole new chapter as I’ve been able to get things l have always managed without.”

Working at Vanguard was also described as a contributing factor in being able to afford the cost of housing. Employees reported a 38.9% reduction in housing affordability stress, with 27.8% of participants spending 30% or more of their income on housing costs (a marker for housing stress) - down from 66.7% of participants prior to starting at Vanguard.

Health benefits


Other positives indicators from the report include a reduced use of health services, with a combined total of 10 fewer visits to the Emergency Department by participants and 106 fewer days spent in hospital since working at Vanguard. This equates to a saving of $195,677 in direct hospital costs.

In addition, there was a 13% decrease in smoking rates (down from 39% of participants to 26%) and 43.5% of employees assesses their health as ‘much better’ than it was a year ago.

With statistics like these, it’s no exaggeration to say that Vanguard is changing - and saving - peoples’ lives.

I’m lucky enough to see the positive impact that Vanguard is having on lives everyday, but being able to produce an objective report based on Centre for Social Impact research means we can show the world that this model of supporting people with a lived experience of mental illness actually works.

"It’s no exaggeration to say that Vanguard is changing - and saving - people's lives"

Thank you to the AMP Foundation for investing in this research, which helps us to state our case to other potential supporters – and be in a position to change more lives.

The AMP Foundation has been supporting Vanguard since late 2016, providing $445,000 for research as well as business and career development roles, and funding a traineeship trial that will enable participants to try other short-term employment opportunities in order to expand their horizons.

Read the Vanguard ‘Our First Year in Business: 2017 Impact Review' here.

Find out more about Vanguard Laundry Services here.


Luke Terry is Managing Director of Vanguard Laundry Services.


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