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Thank You Thursday: Once a Jolly Swagwoman

Imagine there was a meaningful project that brought school kids together for team work, gave an opportunity for skill building and new qualifications in prisoners and provided relief to those most unfortunate in our community, the homeless. A true ‘community’ project that had lots of people working together and benefited thousands more.

Well, there is and it’s called Street Swags.

An initiative that was started in 2005, Street Swags provides one of Australia’s most iconic items – the swag bedroll – to members of the community living on the streets. Through the production and distribution process it brings together so many levels of community.

The swag rolls up into a bag

As detailed on their website, there are “prisoners (who) sew, gaining work readiness skills and qualifications. Aboriginal Communities gain government employment, home industry skills and their finished product for their families. School children roll and package street swags with blankets, pillows, hygiene packs and knitted winter essentials. Numerous aid organisations, hospitals, community groups and volunteers distribute them across Australia.

After many years working in a voluntary capacity with various homeless shelters and groups, Jean Madden was inspired to do something that would really make a significant difference in the lives of the homeless.

She came up with the simple idea of providing swags to people living on the streets. With a piece of foam as underlay and padding, and extra canvas to act as a blanket, the swags were easily rolled up during the day into a bag with some space for a few extra belongings.

Jean with students from Scotch College, courtesy The West Australian

Over 21,000 people have been given a comfortable and warm alternative to sleeping on concrete or dirt through Street Swags since they began. While it’s not an answer to the issue of homelessness in Australia it certainly provides an intermediary relief and protection.

This Thank You Thursday, we’d like to acknowledge Jean and her team of many supporters across the country that come together to create such meaningful products.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.


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