I grew up close to Mount Gambier in what’s known as the Green Triangle region in the southeastern part of South Australia. I went to school there, all the way through to Year 12. But I didn’t like school at all. After school, I was mainly doing vineyard work, apple picking, I used to be an announcer on a community radio station, 5GTR FM.

My family life was not really that good. My parents were not really supportive. I moved in with one of my grandparents when I was 18. I left home aged 22 because when they passed away, it was time for me to move on. I decided to move to Melbourne because there was one person who I knew that moved to Frankston a couple of years prior to me. I arrived in Melbourne on May the 5th, 2001, on a Saturday.

I tried my hand at telemarketing – I wasn’t good at that – did a bit of delivering newspapers, junk mail, did a bit of door-to-door charity collecting which I was somewhat okay at. I worked for KFC as a fry cook, I did a Certificate II in Business Admin.

Back in 2004, I was long-term underemployed, living by myself in an apartment in Frankston. At that stage, I owed a lot in back rent. I was struggling. If it wasn’t for things such as soup vans and community kitchens and that, I wouldn’t have been able to eat.

So I started at The Big Issue. I remember my first day, I was saying to myself, “Okay Daryl, if you don’t sell anything that’s okay cos it’s only your first day.” And then it was pretty good. I started to have money: I got pizza the first couple of nights. Then I actually started to have money where I could buy enough groceries to last each fortnight, or more than enough. I was able to pay off all my bills a lot quicker. And that made me feel pretty good. It’s having that sense of dignity that comes with having an income. It’s actually me, you know, doing something for myself.

My life is a lot different now, because there’s been a lot I’ve been able to do, and have less financial worries because I know that I’ve always got The Big Issue to fall back on. Since 2018 I have been studying psychology and counselling at ACAP. I’m doing different modalities of therapy, learning different areas of psychology, learning how people think, and being aware of different cultures. It’s helped me grow – I’ve got a lot more confidence in myself because I found out I’m actually smarter than what I gave myself credit for. It’s helped me gain a better understanding of myself and other people as well. Hopefully, I’ll try and get a masters in social psychology, and become a researcher and work in that field.

Every now and then, customers tell me they love the way I dress. They say things like “You’re very dapper” or “You’re very professional”. I get a lot of compliments for this hat – and I have a lot of fedoras I like wearing. I call it Victorian/Edwardian-style clothing, kinda Victorian gothic. I was part of that scene and it was the overall aesthetic of it I was drawn to.

Thank you for supporting me – and for supporting The Big Issue for 25 years!

Daryl sells The Big Issue on High Street, Northcote, Melbourne.

Interview by Amy Hetherington.

Photo by James Braund.