I was conceived in Hornsby, in Sydney. When I was born, my parents bought a house in Mount Colah, and I lived there until I was in Year 9 at school. My parents divorced when I was in Year 9, and I moved to Berowra. I’ve been there ever since.

I have an older sister who’s 36 and a younger brother who is 27. I am 34 – I’m in the middle. Growing up, I was close to my sister. She’s still a good sister to this day. I felt like my sister had to grow up a lot to help me with my disability and stuff. She has two children now, so she’s always busy with her children. They are three years old and 10 months old.

School was a disaster. I started getting anxiety and I still do. I started running out of school, not staying in the classroom, and then having panic attacks. I made it all the way through to Year 12, but it was quite a struggle. My psychologist and my mum pushed me through it.

I still have these two friends that I keep in contact with, who I enjoyed hanging out and having lunch with. We were called the Three Musketeers.

After school, I went for a few jobs, but I left because of anxiety. The Big Issue is the job I’ve stayed at the longest. I started selling The Big Issue in May 2022. My sister’s partner found out about The Big Issue from Marcus, who was a vendor in Concord, and told me about it – and I thought it was a good idea.

I like everything about selling The Big Issue. What I like about it is that I can work whenever, wherever. In the first few minutes of starting a shift, I get a bit nervous, but then it just goes and you’re selling your mags. You just sit there, say “hi” to people, and then they say “hi” – or they say “no, thanks” – and it’s easy. I love the regulars.

I have two different carers called Michelle. Michelle Warren, who comes cooking with me Wednesday and Saturday night. I’m also in this group called Ability Lifestyles, and Michelle Duffy, who’s in charge of that group, takes me ice-skating and stuff. In this group, we also go away. We’ve been to Shoal Bay, to the Hunter Valley, to Forster…and this year we’re going to Coffs Harbour.

On Tuesday afternoons, I go to a therapeutic art class in Hornsby, where we do craft. It’s fun – we’ve done some pretty interesting stuff. And I’m pretty fit. I go to the gym and do weights, and I ride my pushbike. I’m ice-skating again. I play netball. It’s good exercise; it’s good for running.

I’m saving up to buy myself an Apple Watch. It’s like a phone but on your wrist, and it can tell how many steps I do, because I do so much walking! I went to the Apple Store a few weeks ago, and I liked a maroon-pink one. Pink has always been my favourite colour. My siblings are giving me money towards it for my birthday.

Monique sells The Big Issue in Berowra, Sydney

Interview by Amy Hetherington
Photo by Michael Quelch

Published in Ed#703