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Vanguard Laundry Services sets a new cycle for social change

16 January 2017

The Australian Government, Westpac and other leading businesses throw support behind a new social enterprise in Toowoomba.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today visited Toowoomba to officially open Vanguard Laundry Services, a new state-of-art facility offering employment opportunities and career advice for people who have experienced mental illness and have been unemployed for over five years.

The Australian Government has also committed to providing $1 million to support the new service, which is the brain-child of local not-for-profit organisation, Toowoomba Clubhouse.

In total, over $6 million in funding, finance and in-kind support has been provided by a number of corporate sponsors to establish the laundry including Westpac, Westpac Foundation, The Paul Ramsay Foundation, AMP, Ian Potter and local philanthropist Ian Knox. Social Ventures Australia (SVA) was instrumental in working with all parties to raise the capital to establish the business. Twenty-nine cash donations have been made worth $3.2 million and over $770,000 in pro bono and in kind support from 26 project partners. It has also borrowed over $2.1 million from social impact financiers.

Vanguard Laundry Services is a partnership between Toowoomba Clubhouse and St Vincent’s Private Hospital and was made possible when St Vincent’s offered the Clubhouse a long term nine year contract in return for building the facility. The centre provides employment opportunities for over 40 individuals living with a mental illness in Toowoomba. It is the region’s only full barrier wall system laundry, and is the only business in the region with a career development centre striving to find employment opportunities for the socially disadvantaged.

Luke Terry, Executive Director of Toowoomba Clubhouse and founder of Vanguard Laundry Services, said the momentum behind socially-minded and sustainable business practices is incredibly strong. The groundwork for a lasting shift in the way business and communities work together has been laid by social enterprises like Vanguard.

“Mental health issues affect more Queenslanders than cancer and diabetes combined. Traditional employment programs have a success rate of 14% in helping people unemployed with mental illness get to 13 weeks of employment. Our Toowoomba Social enterprise programs have a success rate of 75% for 26 weeks and beyond. We work with people every day in our clubhouse programs that want to give work a go. Social enterprises like Vanguard provide that opportunity,” Mr Terry said.

Westpac played a pivotal role in helping Mr Terry and Toowoomba Clubhouse to establish Vanguard Laundry Services.  In 2013, Westpac Foundation provided $10,000 in grant funding to Toowoomba Clubhouse through the Westpac Foundation Community Grants program, to develop the business model for its social enterprise commercial laundry. In 2015, Westpac Foundation was the first corporate organisation to provide funding to assist in the establishment of the social enterprise commercial laundry, through a $100,000 social enterprise grant. Westpac Foundation also provided Toowoomba Clubhouse and Vanguard Laundry Services with essential non-financial support from Westpac employees in the areas of human resources, web development, infrastructure support and waived fees.

In addition, Westpac has provided $1.6 million in equipment finance alongside $500,000 of impact investment from local social impact investors.


“Imagine you have a corporation of 40,000 people behind you – that is what it’s like working with Westpac. Not only was Westpac Foundation’s early support of the Vanguard Laundry vital in attracting other supporters to the project; but its More than Money skilled volunteering program has helped us develop a new website, write employment contracts and do graphic design – things we would never have been able to do on our own,” Mr Terry said.

Sinclair Taylor, Westpac Foundation CEO, said Westpac is delighted to be able to help support the Toowoomba region through financial and non-financial support for the new laundry.

“Vanguard Laundry Services is a shining example of how social enterprises can make a real difference in nurturing more cohesive and inclusive communities by creating employment opportunities for Australians experiencing mental illness who are often excluded from mainstream employment. Not only has this remarkable project garnered the support of the local community, it also has the backing of leading businesses and the Federal Government, which are working together to provide employment opportunities for the region.

“Westpac is committed to helping local communities to prosper and grow, and we are thrilled to be able provide the Vanguard Laundry with essential services and support so they can offer disadvantaged people a pathway from unemployment to a sustainable livelihood,” Mr Taylor said.

SVA also provided strategic and commercial advice, identified sources of capital and philanthropy, brokered pro-bono legal support, recruitment assistance and support to realise this business opportunity.

“We chose SVA for their depth of understanding in innovative finance models and commitment to social impact,” Mr Terry said.

Rob Koczkar, CEO Social Ventures Australia, said: “SVA will continue providing ongoing expertise as the business develops into one of Australia’s leading social enterprises. Vanguard is a high impact social enterprise and we look forward to continuing to support the initiative as it changes the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the Toowoomba community.’


In addition to being an employment launch pad for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, Vanguard Laundry Services offers a unique social enterprise employment model, offering career and vocational advice, on-the-job assistance as well as career guidance, courses and training.

All dividends from the laundry are re-invested back into the business to create more jobs or kick-start another social enterprise business.


About Vanguard Laundry Service

After working with St Vincent’s Private Hospital Toowoomba on a variety of initiatives the opportunity arose for Toowoomba Clubhouse to partner on a social enterprise laundry project. With no local barrier wall laundry systems in the Toowoomba region the only option for St Vincent’s Toowoomba after decommissioning its existing plant was to outsource to Brisbane.

With a strong commitment to local outcomes and the identified need for a modern barrier wall laundry in the Toowoomba region a full feasibility study was completed in partnership with Social Ventures Australia and some of Australia’s leading commercial laundry experts.

Local property group Hallmark Property purchased the block of land for the project and a variety of other anchor customers and corporates came on board to support the project.


About Toowoomba Clubhouse

Toowoomba Clubhouse is an organisation dedicated to supporting adults with a lived experience of mental illness.  As a community, it aims to provide opportunities for members to develop the skills and confidence needed to transform their lives.

The Clubhouse provides a restorative environment for members who need the support and belief of others to assist them in their recovery. Members can choose the way that they participate in the work of Clubhouse, the skills they wish to build, how they socialise with others, and which support programs they access.

​​​The Clubhouse programs provide members with opportunities to access employment, education, housing, and other supports they may need.  Toowoomba are always looking for ways in which it can extend the opportunities it provide.​

About Westpac Foundation

Westpac Foundation is a charitable organisation with a legacy that dates back 137 years. In 1879 Thomas Buckland, the President of the Bank of New South Wales (which became Westpac), established The Buckland Fund to help families of deceased bank employees who found themselves in financial hardship. The fund commenced with Mr Buckland's initial donation of £1,000, a bonus he received for services to the bank.

Today, Westpac Foundation continues to support social enterprises and local grassroots organisations taking a fresh approach to addressing complex social problems, borrowing the best from business and the social sector to create more opportunity for Australia’s most disadvantaged. While being independent, Westpac Foundation considers Westpac Group to be its greatest supporter.

Since 1999, Westpac Foundation has granted more than $30 million to more than 450 not-for-profit organisations and remains steadfast in its goal to help open doors to social and financial inclusion for fellow Australians experiencing disadvantage.

About Social Ventures Australia

Social Ventures Australia (SVA) is a social purpose organisation that works with partners to improve the lives of people in need. Our range of services are designed to scale social impact, helping business, government and philanthropists to be more effective funders and social purpose organisations to be more effective at delivering services. To drive the change we seek, we build on our practical knowledge of effective practice in education, employment, housing and with First Australians.


List of financial donors:

Australian Federal Government

Paul Ramsay Foundation

AMP Foundation

English Foundation

Social Ventures Australia (SVA)

St Vincent’s Health Australia

Hutchinson Builders

Heritage Bank

Westpac Foundation

Alpine Air Conditioning


Bill Mair

Clive Berghofer

Dr Prebble

Hallmark Property

Heredale Limited

Hutchinson Builders

Ian Potter Foundation

Ian Yeo



Precinct Urban Planning


Ramsay Foundation

Ridgway Accounting

Robertson Scannell

Toowoomba Clubhouse

Toowoomba Masonic Society

Toowoomba Sports Club

List of in kind support:

Ambush Security

APA Group

Arc Blue

Ashburner Francis


Chris Buckley Plumbing


Classic Recruitment

Downs Office Supplies

Emaho Trees


Excel Lockers



Hede Byrne Hall

KWM (King Wood Mallison)


Minstaff Survey

Minters Ellison

Neato Employment

Precinct Urban Planning

Ray White Commercial

RMA engineers

Signs On time

Social Ventures Australia

St Vincent’s

Toowoomba Clubhouse

Toowoomba Regional Council

Wendy Roche Photography

Westpac Foundation