I used to be an athlete. I got a scholarship with the Australian Institute of Sport when I was 14, and was with them for 10 years. I’ve travelled to Germany, Brazil, Spain, Hungary, Malaysia and Argentina to compete in the world championships for the intellectually disabled. I’ve held a world record and won gold for discus and shot-put. It was very memorable, full of great moments and a good bunch of people in the team. I’ve got friends for life – I still ring up quite a few of my old teammates and coaches to see how they’re going. I don’t compete anymore now – I had a back injury.

I heard about The Big Issue through a friend. I’ve been a vendor for five years. I sell at a couple of different places in Canberra: Charnwood, Lyneham and Jamison Centre, which is my favourite. The people at the post office and the dollar shop there are really beautiful people – they support me. I was recently quite sick, and the post office staff were very concerned about me, and sent a get-well card to the hospital. Anyone who pops into the post office, say hello to Dion for me, he always buys magazines! I have a lot of regulars and I’m friends with some vendors, too.

I would like to thank my customers from the bottom of my heart for how wonderful they are, and their support. I like all the nice people I get to chat with, and the money. It means I’m not just getting paid from my pension – it’s not enough. It’s hard for people. Now I have money to buy food every day, get dog food and go shopping. I’m also saving, saving, saving, just in case I need it. It’s worked wonders.

I love to play video games on my Xbox 360, and watch movies and Netflix. At the end of last year, my TV broke. Because I’d been working a lot, I could buy a new one.

I live in a group home. I’ve been there for six years. It’s great. My flatmate is a nice person and my carers help me out a lot. They come with me when I sell the magazine, just in case I need help. I have a fox terrier named Soxy – she’s getting older and older. She comes with me, too, but only sometimes in the winter, if it isn’t too cold. I like having her there with me. It gets her out of the house, so I think she likes it, too.

I’m really close with my family. They are happy for me. They say they are just glad I’m out there working and doing something. I definitely want to keep selling The Big Issue. I’m not really planning for anything else. I’m happy doing what I’m doing. It gets pretty cold out in the winter, sitting in front of the shops, but I still do pretty good.

Interview by Lilian Bernhardt
Photo by Rohan Thomson

Published in ed#691