John

I grew up in Nollamara in Perth with my mum, dad and older brother Ron. Life was good until my dad passed away when I was 10 years old. He had epilepsy and had an accident. I remember the police came round at 8:30 at night and from then on it was just the three of us.

My mum was a good person and a great mum – she used to help everyone out. I remember knocking about with mates, and I used to get them to come over to our place for Mum’s lamingtons – they were the best we had ever tasted. She also used to make vanilla slices with Sao biscuits, homemade custard and white and pink icing over the top. I can say that my mum was the best dessert cook in the world! Mum couldn’t work because she had a bad back, so was on a pension. She must have worked hard to make everything stretch, because we never wanted for anything and had a good childhood. She passed when I was 26.

I have always been close with my brother Ron, kept an eye on him. He went to a special school when we were kids, but I went to regular school. School wasn’t that good for me. I never really mastered reading and writing, so I wagged a lot. I remember hanging out at the shops all day and then heading home and telling Mum that school was good!

I’ve had heaps of jobs. When I was young, I was a gyprocker. I was a kitchen hand at Balladonia Hotel Motel on the Nullarbor. I’ve been a FIFO traffic controller in the Pilbara. I worked as a storeman at a bed factory. I’ve also had periods of not working when I was caring for my son Robbie, who is also a Big Issue vendor. But it’s been eight or nine years since I’ve had regular work – I’ve been looking, but because of my health it’s near impossible. I still have trouble reading and writing, so filling out forms is hard also. That’s why I joined The Big Issue, which has been a lifeline.

My brother Ron and my son Robbie got me into selling the magazine. It helps pay the bills and put a roof over my head. I am also pretty good mates with other vendors, especially Marcus and Greg. We often catch up after work, sometimes for a cheeky beer!

I want to get back into the traditional workforce, but for now The Big Issue is there for me. I have a Homeswest unit now, and I’m proud of that. I’m right in the heart of Fremantle. The bus pulls up on my front door, so it’s easy to get to work at 6am. Family is important to me and I like seeing my son, and my daughter and grandkids. My goal is to go on a holiday – I love camping, fishing and sightseeing.

Johns sells The Big Issue outside David Jones on Hay St, Perth.

Interview by Andrew Joske.

Photo by Ross Swanborough.