I grew up on a farm in Coonabarabran in New South Wales. We had pigs. My childhood was pretty good. At the time, I probably didn’t like it so much, coming from a family of 10. I was the oldest boy. My sister was a bit older than me – she and I had a lot of responsibility. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate our upbringing. There was a lot of love in the family. And the skills we learned from having that responsibility help me every day with my own kids.
I couldn’t stick with school. I prefer to do things with my hands. I’d wag school and mow lawns or do stuff on the farm. I left halfway through Year 9 to go and work. I decided to go back again, in Year 11, but I only got a short way through that before I stopped again.
After school, I started in hospitality. But then my social life became more of a priority. I did a lot of labouring work, logistics and driving trucks. Me and some mates would sell firewood, just wheel and deal whatever we could to make a living.
For a long time, I was a pot smoker and an alcoholic. Then after my mum passed away, when I was 31, I discovered ice. I had an 18-month addiction with that, which is what kept me on the street. I was homeless for two years – 18 months of living on the street in Sydney, and six months couch surfing or whatever. In the end, you bleed everyone dry.
I started selling The Big Issue in June 2018. One day, I was on a milk crate out the front of Town Hall Woolworths, and my wife came up and prayed for me. That’s how we met. And then a little bit down the track, we got married and had a couple of kids. Levi is three-and-a-half, and Amelia is two. Olesya introduced me to God. I got baptised, and I had a different set of eyes – I didn’t want the drugs and alcohol anymore. These things fell away from me. Coming to Jesus really changed my life.
After I met Olesya, I became motivated, started being sensible with my money. I rented a room for a while until we were able to get an apartment. Having a home, I’m not going to take it for granted anymore. Rent’s always paid, the bills are always paid, and I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardise it.
Being a parent is a joy. They’re your motivation for everything. I like how inquisitive the kids are. They want to know everything, and you’ve got to have answers for them. Taking Levi fishing or doing puzzles with him – just the normal things of being a parent – I enjoy. Sleepless nights and nappies? I lap that up, too. I want to be there for my kids, and just make sure that they have a happy, healthy life.
I’d like to thank everybody, whether they buy a magazine once, or they buy it regularly. Every person that grabs one – they’re making a difference. The people that you meet while selling The Big Issue, you form relationships with them. For me, it’s the first time in my life where I see that people actually care. People have got a heart. I’ve never seen anything else like it.
Jack sells The Big Issue on Martin Place, Sydney
Interview by Amy Hetherington
Photo by Michael Quelch
Published in #696