I came into the world in 1957, in Young, New South Wales. I was the second born, and the black sheep of the family. I was always into mischief – wagging school, playing up. We moved to Forbes, and I got a job on a dairy farm before I turned 16. I’d milk cows, do feeding, a bit of fencing, very early mornings. It wasn’t bad. It paid $40 a week.
After a few years, I got itchy feet, and that’s when I started travelling around Australia, hitchhiking up and down the coast and all through the inland. I like seeing a bit of the countryside. There’s a lot of different people out there, and in most cases the people I’ve come across are kind, open and easy to talk to.
I’ve got a lot of knowledge because of all the travelling and jobs I’ve done. I worked on Hamilton Island for a while, as a porter, maintenance worker, cleaner and I’d babysit the guests’ kids. I worked in abattoirs, as a kitchen hand, did fruit picking, some painting. I worked on a Ferris wheel in carnivals. I did get married for a couple of years in Bundaberg – but we split up. I’m amazed at the places and the things I’ve seen. My favourite is Wagga Wagga. I went back there three or four times over the 20 years I was travelling around.
Lot of times I spent sleeping under bridges or in a park up against a tree. Sometimes, if I had a bit of money, I’d stay in a hotel for a night. I travelled light – had one small bag on my back – and just got a ride whenever I could.
It wasn’t a bad life, but in the end it just got too hard. I think it was about 1997, I ended up back in Brisbane. I stayed at the St Vinnie’s men’s hostel for a while, where I cooked breakfast for 80 to 120 people – you got your own room, the paper and meals. I started selling The Big Issue in 1998. I met a lot of people and it helped get a bit of money in my pocket. I left there in 2000 and went to Bendigo for two years, and then I ended up in Melbourne.
I’m coming up to 25 years of selling The Big Issue. I’ve been out at Williamstown for probably 18 years. Three years ago, when I had my bladder removed, the people of Williamstown raised some money for me to buy an electric scooter. It was a big saviour. I haven’t got any family, so Williamstown is like family. It’s good to catch up with people and have a bit of a chat.
Williamstown is the end of the road for me. I’ve got a one-bedroom unit in a place for over fifties. It’s nice and quiet. I won’t be going anywhere now. I’ll be plugging along doing what I’m doing. I appreciate everything that people have done for me around Williamstown over the years.
Brian sells The Big Issue at Coles, Williamstown, Melbourne.
Interview by Amy Hetherington
Photo by James Braund