I started selling The Big Issue at the start of the year, and I’m really enjoying it. I like the fact that I get to stand outside in the sun; I get to talk to people and occasionally people give me money. Best job ever!

I’ve got vision impairment, autism, ADHD, depression and anxiety. I’ve had low vision since birth, so I kind of just got used to it growing up and it doesn’t really affect me. I only just got diagnosed with autism and that one’s a bit harder to deal with.

I grew up in Canberra and enjoyed school. Years 11 and 12 were a bit hard because I started developing mental health stuff, but before that I enjoyed school. I participated in a lot of sport. I was a cheeky kid, good at being a smart-arse.

I still do a tiny bit of sport. I started doing gymnastics only a month ago, learning trampoline skills, balancing – I find it really helps with the autism stuff, the sensory stuff. And I play footy on an all-abilities rugby league team, the Score Raiders.

I’ve never really stopped studying. I’m doing my Certificate IV in Mental Health; I’m doing it online so it’s self-paced. My end goal is to be a youth worker.

After school, I completed a qualification in learning support, so I am qualified to be a learning support assistant from Years K to 12. It’s essentially another adult in a school that works one-on-one with students who have additional needs.

I was volunteering at a primary school for four years, and I did a traineeship in childcare. But my boss wasn’t the nicest person, and I was like I don’t need to put up with this, so I quit. Now I’m earning more money than I was then. And The Big Issue provides more flexibility, so if I am having a day where I am really anxious, I can text: “I’m not going on pitch today; I’m not feeling good.”

I’m definitely starting to build up a community here in Kambar Village. I’ve had a few customers have talks with me, and tell me how they’ve had mental illness and other stuff, and that’s pretty good, getting to hear other people’s stories.

I moved out of my parents’ house almost 10 months ago, and I’m in a share house. It was definitely time to move out. It’s good that I found a house where the rent’s really cheap, and they’re really nice people.

My goal is to be able to save to get a deposit for a house, and I want to foster some kids. Through my work at the primary school and at the childcare, I’ve met a few kids that are foster kids. And I want to be that person who will be there, be present in children’s lives, so they can have a better future because they’ve had the experience of what love and support is.

Grace sells The Big Issue at Kambah Village, Canberra, ACT.

Interview by Amy Hetherington.
Photo by Sean Davey.