I grew up in Adelaide, in Henley Beach. I had a pretty good childhood, mixed a lot with the kids in our neighbourhood. We’d go for bike rides, fishing, all that wonderful stuff. I did Year 8 twice because I didn’t really succeed. I left that school due to getting in with some rowdy people. I moved to Salesian College in Brooklyn Park, and my grades and attitude and everything changed.

Technical drawing was one of my favourite classes, and metal and woodwork. I played a bit of soccer and football. When that school closed, I went to Christian Brothers College where I did Year 11 and half of Year 12. Then I left school and, for a while, didn’t do anything. I spent a lot of time in the pool hall, playing billiards and eight ball. Then I got a bit sick with a mental illness.

I had a bit of a drug addiction. I spent seven and a half weeks in a clinic. I wanted to get better, and it was the best thing I ever did. I’ve given away all my bad habits: I don’t take drugs, don’t smoke, don’t drink alcohol anymore. I walked away from all the stuff when I left Adelaide and went to Whyalla with Mum and Dad. I think I made the right decision.

I’ve lived in Whyalla for 21 years, and I started at The Big Issue 18 years ago. I found out about it through my dad’s church. My first pitch was in front of the furniture store on the main street. The former mayor Jim Pollock – very nice man – he welcomed me into the town, and from that, it just grew. One lady even said I’m a Whyalla icon.

I work every day of the week, even on Sundays. My normal fortnight is probably around 80 sales. Majority of that is regulars. I do get travellers come through. If they stop to ask directions, I’ll give them a pitch and, most of the time, they do buy. A lot of them already know about The Big Issue.

I live with Mum and Dad. Not long ago, I bought the house off them. I think Dad just wants to make sure I’ll be alright one day when he’s not around anymore. I’m happy to spend time with them – I’m lucky that way. When I had my drug addiction, I could have ended up on the street, very sick. They stuck by me 100 per cent.

Dad is getting a bit older. He’s had bad health for a long time. When I was only 15, he had a massive brain haemorrhage. I’m 44 now, so that’s nearly 30 years ago. He’s gone through cancer and everything. So our goals are just to work around that. We’re talking about doing one more trip to New Zealand. His older brother there, Uncle John, turned 79 last month, so we’re gonna go this time next year to celebrate his 80th. Dad always said he wants to see me turn 50, so that’s his main goal. But my goal is just to enjoy life, really. Getting out there, doing something positive every day.

Chris sells The Big Issue at Foodland, Woolworths & Tanderra Craft Village Markets, Whyalla

Interview by Aimee Knight
Photo by Craig Arnold

Published in ed#695