Melbourne not-for-profits and makers selling face masks that give back to the community

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Melbourne not-for-profits and makers selling face masks that give back to the community

Words by Kate Streader

These masks help reduce the spread of COVID-19 while supporting local charities, social enterprises and more.

Melburnians have been asked to wear face masks in public to help combat the current spike in COVID-19 cases and although wearing a mask does not provide 100 per cent protection from contracting or spreading the virus, it does significantly reduce the risk. However, in order to be effective, it’s important to know the difference between the two main varieties of face masks – cloth and surgical – as well as how to wear each type correctly.

The World Health Organisation has advised that medical or surgical masks should only be worn by health workers, people who have COVID-19 symptoms, those who take care of someone with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, people over the age of 60 and those with pre-existing health conditions.

It’s also important to note that surgical masks are not reusable. You can find them at the chemist, but they are in high-demand, so please stick to fabric masks if you don’t fall into one of the aforementioned categories.

The WHO advises the use of fabric or cloth masks for people who have no COVID-19 symptoms where the virus is widespread and physical distancing of over one metre cannot be achieved, such as public transport, grocery stores, workplaces and other crowded environments. Fabric masks can be re-worn, though it’s important to wash it in between uses.

There are a few things to look out for when choosing a cloth mask, as you need to make sure the fabric is effective in filtering particles from your nose and mouth. Choose a mask that contains two or three layers of high-thread-count fabric with a tight weave and make sure it is well-fitted to your face.

It’s also crucial to wash your hands before putting on and taking off your mask, avoid touching your mask while wearing it, store it in a clean zip-lock bag between uses, always ensure your nose and mouth are fully covered by the mask and do not remove it or pull it down to talk.

You can purchase a fabric face mask from just about anywhere amidst the pandemic, but before you go buying from a chain-store or big retailer, check out this list of local not-for-profits, social enterprises and other independent businesses that are giving back to the community with each mask sold.


Based in Melbourne, SisterWorks is a not-for-profit social enterprise which supports women from refugee, asylum seeker and migrant backgrounds through empowerment, providing opportunities and helping them to become financially independent. By buying from SisterWorks, 50 per cent of the profits from each mask goes directly to the refugee and migrant women who made it. There are a range of patterns and plain colours available, with new stock added daily to keep up with the demand.

Second Stitch

Coburg-based not-for-profit Second Stitch is a social enterprise which employs refugees and asylum seekers. They specialise in alterations and handmade products, as well as hosting workshops and training to provide an opportunities for skill development, though amidst the pandemic they’ve also turned to making and selling face masks. Made from 100 per cent tightly woven yet breathable cotton, these handmade masks also include a cotton lining for you to add an additional filter if you so choose. By buying from Second Stich you will be helping to create employment opportunities for some of Melbourne’s most disadvantaged community members.

Alperstein Designs

Using offcut fabrics featuring stunning Aboriginal artworks, Alperstein Designs’ range of face masks are vibrant, adjustable for a snug fit and feature a pocket for single-use filters to add an extra layer of protection. Royalties from all masks sold directly benefit the artists and their communities, too. Due to high demand, all masks are currently sold out, but you can rest assured there are more on the way.

Here & There Makers

Victoria-based not-for-profit Here & There Makers is dedicated to helping people and the planet by selling upcycled, handmade and zero-waste products as well as giving back to the community through charity. They’ve recruited a bunch of volunteers to help sew masks in various sizes and funky prints. The masks contain three layers of fabric, as well as a moldable nose piece which is great for people who wear glasses as it stops them from fogging. $2 from each mask sold will be donated to social enterprise Days for Girls Ferntree Gully, which provides sustainable menstrual hygiene kits to women in need.

The Social Studio

In March, Collingwood-based not-for-profit The Social Studio began producing medical scrubs for healthcare workers to help meet the pandemic-induced demand. Now, the social enterprise is working alongside the Victorian government to make reusable masks for community members. Designed in accordance with DHHS guidelines, The Social Studio’s masks feature three layers of breathable fabric and adjustable elastic pieces to create a secure fit.  Partly made using upcycled fabrics donated by TSS supporters in the local textile industry, masks are available in various colours and patterns across two sizes. And the best part? All proceeds from mask sales will go directly back into The Social Studio’s work to provide skill development, training, and employment opportunities for new migrant and refugee communities.

Stitched by Megan

Stitched by Megan began when the pandemic began to take hold. The one-woman initiative is run by an event manager who took to sewing masks to fill her free time after COVID-19 shutdowns shook her industry to its core. Over the past few months, for every mask sold she’s been donating a mask to healthcare workers. Now, she’s donating $5 from each mask sold to Food Bank Australia and The Smith Family Australia in a bid to spread love, not germs.

For more information on face masks, visit the Department of Health and Human Services or World Health Organisation website. 

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