12 January 2009: Jean Madden, who graduated from Australian Catholic University’s (ACU) Brisbane Campus in Arts, Education and Theology, has been named the 2010 Queensland Young Australian of the Year.
The 30-year-old school teacher received the honour for her Street Swag invention and is now in the running for the national award.
Realising the negative effects that lack of sleep and lying on concrete has on physical and mental health, schoolteacher Jean Madden designed the Street Swag back in 2005. Made from lightweight waterproof canvas and a foam mattress, the swag also has room for extra belongings and folds into a bag.
Jean said that more than 13,000 Street Swags have been distributed to those sleeping rough around Australia so far.
“Thanks to the numerous aid organisations and volunteers that have lent a hand, I hope that we have made a difference to the homeless in Australia, even if we are only scratching the surface,” she said. “The Street Swag is about keeping people alive for as long as possible.”
The Street Swag initiative also contributes to other aspects of the community. Prisoners sew the Street Swags and gain work readiness skills and qualifications, Aboriginal communities gain government employment and home industry skills, and school children roll and package them.
Jean has also recently launched Walkabout Beds, which is making a commercial version for sale to the public, with the profits going back into Street Swag.
Last year, she beat actor Brad Pitt to win the prestigious INDEX design awards “people’s choice” category for her invention.
The national 2010 Young Australian of the Year will be announced on 25 January in Canberra.