I grew up in the sort of town people leave: Gulgong, New South Wales, up near Mudgee. I am one of 17, but haven’t seen any of my family for 10 or 20 years. I don’t know where they are now. I’m just a lost sheep.
My parents died when I was 14. From then I was on my own, looking after myself. I left school and joined a travelling fair. I didn’t really go to school much, anyway. I didn’t want to. I’m not good at reading or writing, but know enough to get by.
I used to operate the dodgem cars and merry-go-rounds. It took me all over Australia. It was great to see different places. Probably one of my favourite places is Cooktown. It’s nice and hot, and a perfect place for a swim. I like swimming, but I haven’t gone lately. There are too many sharks! I used to swim at the beach, but not at any particular beach. I’m not really tempted to do any more travelling, though, because it costs too much.
When the fair closed down, I found myself homeless for two years. I was only 18 at the time and found it a bit tough on the streets. I started working in pubs and clubs all over Newcastle and Sydney. I would live at the pubs and work there, picking up glasses and cleaning toilets. I was able to stay in a few hostels from time to time – that’s where I found out about The Big Issue.
I joined in 2002, and this year I will have been selling it for 20 years. The only thing that’s changed is the people I meet on the street. They stop and talk to me and all that. They say, “How are you going?” That makes me feel alright.
My pitch is at the Town Hall, just outside of Woolworths. Since I’ve been there, I’ve gotten to know everyone in the area. I’ve made a couple of friends, not many.
I like selling the magazine because it’s a bit of fun. And it gets you out of the house. You meet funny people and I’ve got a few good customers. They give me tips, and all that. I like talking to people on my pitch. I’m saving for another good TV – a big one. I like watching CSI and Hawaii Five-0. I don’t like watching The Bachelor!
The vendor breakfasts have started up again in Sydney. I cook the food on the barbecue – I haven’t killed anyone yet! I cook sausages, sometimes bacon and eggs and onions. I cut up the onions, because the others just cry all the time when they do it! I don’t know why I’m so good at it. People give me a clap and all that.
Having the money from selling The Big Issue means you’ve got no worries about anything. And if you’ve got worries you can talk to someone in vendor support. If someone was looking to sell The Big Issue, I would say, “That’s alright, go for it”. There are good stories in there and it puts good people in a job.
David sells The Big Issue at Woolworths Town Hall, Sydney.
Interview by Sinéad Stubbins
Photo by Michael Quelch
First published in The Big Issue Australia, Ed#674