Street Swag goes global with design win

Shannon Holloway
ABC News

Updated September 11, 2009 18:19:00

A Brisbane school teacher says she has started receiving overseas orders for her sleeping bag for the homeless, after winning an international design award.

Street Swag inventor Jean Madden was taken by surprise when her lightweight and camouflaged swag won the people’s choice INDEX award in Copenhagen, beating off finalists including Brad Pitt, who was in the running for his Hurricane Katrina Pink Project housing rebuilding program.

Ms Madden has told ABC Radio National’s By Design program her creation is more than a sleeping bag because it is made of a super-lightweight canvas with a thin, high density foam mattress. It has enough room to keep personal belongings inside.

“What makes it so successful is that it rolls down into itself to look like a bag, so it doesn’t actually look like bedding.

“That’s really important for safety, particularly for the women and the children who use our swags,” she said.

Ms Madden says it was “a pretty cool thing to win,” and was privileged to be congratulated by Crown Princess Mary of Denmark after receiving the award.

She believes her unique product won the people’s choice award as it keeps homeless people alive.

“I think what the response was why so many people voted in the world for us to win, was that it is something that is so desperately needed at the moment.

“With the world financial crisis, that [means] a world homelessness crisis.

“[It's] something that’s just so needed,” she said.

Ms Madden said over 12,000 swags have been produced for homeless Australians, by prisoners from Queensland’s Woodford Correctional Centre and Grafton in New South Wales.

“It’s going to be great revenue for correctional services as well within Australia,” she said.

Despite the large amount of swags already on the streets, Ms Madden said there has been a huge increase in homelessness, describing it as “sickening”.

“Already we have started to be approached from some of the other countries, particularly winning the INDEX award.

“So the charity started a second company, so we can start to pick up some orders from overseas, as a way of raising revenue for our Street Swags charity here in Australia,” she said.

Ms Madden said the production of the swags will continue in Australia, as the specialised canvas for the swags can only be milled in Australia.

But she says microfinance industries in Kolkata and East Timor are currently being set up to help with demand.

 

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