Making a difference for children

Setting out to empty a cupboard full of fabric became a life changing moment for grandmother, Yvonne Pattinson.

A home seamstress all her life Yvonne couldn’t resist using up the material by making pretty outfits for little girls.

This led to a friend involved with an orphanage in Myanmar asking for as much clothing for these children as Yvonne could make.

Urged on by her daughter Deborah, then an officer with the Queensland Police Force, Yvonne joined the Brighter Future 4 Kids Foundation (which supplies new shoes and socks to primary school children) to make clothes for children throughout Queensland’s rural and outback areas, and across the Torres Strait islands, and Papua New Guinea

Three years later and Yvonne with her modest team of local ladies has supplied more than 2000 delightful, attractive, quality shorts, dresses, shirts, skirts and carry bags to children ranging from toddlers to 10 year-olds.

The demand is now so great Yvonne needs to expand her small team of seamstresses.

“They don’t have to be professional.  In fact when I started out I just asked for people to join me to sew or just to have a cup of tea and a chat,” she said.

“In fact two of the ladies who come along each week, don’t sew, but they are a great help with ironing.

“Nor does anyone who can volunteer to sew with us, have to leave home. 

“I’m happy if someone makes one skirt or one pair of shorts a month, or even longer.

“If some sewers can come together in a small group, I can show them the ropes and we supply everything they need.”

Yvonne’s local team meet once a week in a Sunshine Coast community hall.

Here the ladies cut and remake uniforms supplied by Terri Irwin of Australia  Zoo, Commissioner Andrew Colvin of the Australian Federal Police, the Queensland Police and the Australian Border Force teams.

Having made most of the clothing for her family, including suits for her husband, and surf gear for a son; her daughter Deb’s bridal gown and the four bridesmaid gowns, Yvonne has a keen eye for design and knows how to make a pattern.

She has found inventive ways to use the donated stock.

Shirt sleeves become pinafores.

Heavy police pants become durable shorts while lighter pant legs make small, wraparound skirts, accessorised with rick rack or colourful embroidery.

“Shirt fronts with their pockets make great carry bags,” explained Yvonne.

Strong lanyards from a conference she attended in Cairns are used as the bag handles.

The news of Yvonne’s clothing program continues to spread and besides stacks of uniforms and fabrics, she now has “boxes and boxes” of new denim pants, donated by a shopkeeper.

“We have used around 600 already, many are cut back to shorts and then the lower legs are used to make a young girl’s wraparound skirt.

 “We also received several large 50m rolls of new fabric, so we are not short of material, just sewers and elastic.”

This is a No Zip Zone, all of the clothing for children features elastic and some buttons, designed to be easy to make and easy to wear.

Jenny Rookie, one of the sewing team said she is constantly amazed at the inventive designs Yvonne has created.

“The back of a shirt, including the yoke, make lovely wraparound skirts,” she said.

The delivery of the clothing to the communities and children who can most benefit is simple and effective.

“We make, then hand over to whoever has provided the uniforms and they deliver to the area of most need.

“I know some went to the children in Vanuatu following the last cyclone, “Yvonne said.

To reach her goal of supplying more than 100,000 items of clothing each year to kids in need within the next five years, Yvonne is calling for helpers particularly in South-East Queensland.

“But I can supervise volunteer sewers across Queensland,” she said.

As part of the Brighter Future 4 Kids Foundation and with the support of patrons including Commissioner Katarina Carroll of Queensland’s Fire and Emergency Service, and Australia Zoo’s Terri Irwin, along with her daughter, Deborah Platz, who is now the Deputy Commissioner Crime Operations of the Australian Federal Police, along with charitable groups including the Country Women’s Association, Yvonne is setting out to reach her goal.

Oh, and did Yvonne clear out the cupboard?

“Not likely. I now have two spare bedrooms full.”

NOTE: That there’s a need for clothing for our young children is well documented by the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) with last year’s report revealing one in six Australian children under the age of 15 lives in poverty.

 Can you help?
Email or
call Yvonne 0413 133 791 or
Glenn Ferguson 0412 555 018.