I was born and bred in Richmond, but I’m a Collingwood supporter. My dad was Collingwood, my little brother was Collingwood before he passed away… There are 16 of us. But we don’t know them all, so I just say the ones I know: Jennifer, Colleen, Richard who’s passed away, Mark and myself – and Jan our stepsister, kinda.

I loved school. I loved history and sport. Coming up, I got called things like “rational brains”, “scrag” – you name it, I got it, because I wore full uniform, I shined my shoes, and I spent my time in the library studying. I mean, I’m like a sponge: I never stop learning things. If I hear a word I don’t know, I look it up. I read a book a day, books like James Patterson, crime novels.

After the HSC, I went into the Army. I’ve always loved the armed forces, always. When we were young, the Americans came in on a ship into Port Melbourne, and I befriended some of the Navy guys. I always liked the Navy, but I preferred the Army because it offered the best opportunities for women in those days. That’s when I ended up in Sydney. It was a good six years in the Army. I was sigs or signals. I loved it.

After I left, I did nurse’s aide work in Sydney, and then I came home back to Melbourne. I did childcare work, and I got work as an orderly. Then I did a carpentry, joining, welding, fitting training course for women at TAFE, and from that I did a pre-apprenticeship in carpentry. I enjoyed that. I did a few jobs, but it was really hard in those days as a female, so then I went on and did my Cert II and III in security. I used to work as a security guard at the footy, the cricket, concerts and all that.

I was standing at the footy one day, and this guy started chatting, talking footy, and he came back at half-time and said “You don’t know who I am do you? I’m your brother.” It was my little brother Richard; we’d been estranged for ages when the girls got put into one kids’ home, the boys put in another.

I have this philosophy that I am what I am because of me. My past has got nothing to do with it. I’m non-binary now, which means I don’t think of myself as female, I don’t think of myself as male, I’m me. It confuses people; they can’t get their heads around it.

I started selling The Big Issue in July. I like the freedom, that you pick your hours. And just getting out and about and meeting people, and having fun.

I do a lot of volunteering as it keeps my mind active. I work with the Salvos, as well as with Switchboard’s Out and About program. I’ve got the gift to help, as my church told me. It’s good to help.

KJ sells The Big Issue outside Young and Jackson, corner Flinders and Swanston Sts, Melbourne.

Interview by Amy Hetherington.

Photo by James Braund.