Growing up in Tassie, Mum raised us, and we never had much money. I am the middle of three kids and both my siblings were boys. Mum wasn’t really a girly-girl, so I grew up pretending I was a guy. I didn’t grow up with another female who did the girl stuff. It was hard.

I went to a primary school in the area and Mum helped me get extra support – it wasn’t a lot though. In high school I was put into a mainstream class, but I was always slipping behind, so I left when I was 16. Just because I couldn’t keep up and there wasn’t much support for me. My school years were quite dark, horrible even. I found it hard at an all-girls school. If I went to a co-ed school, I probably would have fitted in better.

At 18 I went to live with Dad, but we had an argument and I had to move out. I wasn’t talking to Mum or Dad, so ended up in a women’s shelter, where I found acceptance from the staff and the other women. I got some counselling to help with my mental health. It did improve.

After that I was couch surfing for two years. During the day I’d go to drop-in centres or hang around the streets because I had nothing to do. I finally got a trolley job which was seven bucks an hour, not really a bread-winning job. I also did an office placement for nine months.

When that finished, I did a business course, and had a downward spiral of depression. At the same time, I got involved with The Big Issue’s Street Soccer Program in Hobart. I was into it in no time. I went to the 2010 and 2011 soccer nationals in Sydney. And I got selected for the Homeless World Cup in Paris in 2011. I scored the first goal for Australia, from a penalty!

I ended up leaving for Adelaide the following year and began selling The Big Issue. Then I moved to Brisbane for about six years and I sold up there. It was nice but I think I hung in there longer than I should have. It was better to leave, to get out. My life is so different now compared to when I was in Brisbane. I’ve always wanted a spot where I feel happy and comfortable and relaxed, and Adelaide’s it. I just love it. There are lovely awesome people here and the customers support me.

I’m still playing Street Soccer and enjoy going out to Port Adelaide; I get to meet new people and can ride my bike there from home. I like working the suburban pitches because I know I will see familiar faces and I can count on regular sales. It brings in money, which means I can keep feeding my bird Sunny!

Today I’ve got important people in my life that I cherish to bits. I wouldn’t change anything. I’ve got someone special who I’m very close to and who I can see in my longterm future. And while my older brother and my dad have passed I still have a lot of phone contact with Mum, every day.

Cindy sells The Big Issue at Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers Market, Blackwood and Goodwood, Adelaide.

Words by Rebecca Dempsey.

Photo by Nat Rogers.