I was born in Liverpool, Sydney. It was great. I grew up with my family – my uncles and aunties and my cousins. My mum and I lived with my nan and my pop for a while and then we got our own place.
I started my first year of high school when we moved to Penrith. I was half-way through when my nan and two aunties won third prize in the lotto. Nanna rang and asked if we’d like to move to the Gold Coast. We said “yes, yes, yes!” and haven’t gone back to Sydney since. When she said she’d pay for us to move, it was life changing.
School was okay. I had my ups and downs because I had an intellectual impairment. I went to a special school in Coolangatta, which I absolutely loved. It overlooked the beach on Kirra Hill. Me and my friends used to sit out there and watch everybody surf. At school we had a restaurant that we used to run on a Wednesday. We’d prepare all the food ourselves and cook it and then get people to come in and we’d serve it to them. We had a little bar where we would serve drinks from as well.
We moved to Brisbane when I was 16, and I finished school. I went straight from there to work for Coles in the dairy. But I just wasn’t getting enough work and I ended up going to Red Cross for a year and a half. I was doing a bit of everything there – we did show bags one year, mailing, we’d pull apart old phones and clean them up, stuff like that. Then I was a butcher’s assistant. I did all the crumbing – crumbed chicken, crumbed steak, crumbed veal, crumbed lamb cutlets… When you do your crumbing, you’ve got to do the flour first, then the egg and then the crumbs. I left that to have a baby, a little boy. Now I’ve got a 24-year-old.
I didn’t do too much after that because of his medical needs. He was born with dislocation of the hips, a heart murmur and multiple holes in his heart, and mild hearing loss. We were always at the hospital. He had to have a five-and-a-half-hour operation on his hip and was in a plaster cast for more than two-and-a‑half months. It was really stressful. Since then, he’s had many operations. But you wouldn’t know it, unless he told you.
I’ve been selling The Big Issue going on four or five months now. I was dating one of the vendors, then got to know a couple of the other vendors. They said to me, “Come and do The Big Issue with us, you’ll love it.” So I did it and yeah, I love it. I couldn’t think of doing anything else.
The money makes a difference. It helps out with my bills. I’m not really saving for anything right now, just trying to get myself above water.
I’m going to keep selling The Big Issue for as long as I can. It gets me out there and interacting with other people. Just being able to get outside instead of being cooped up in the house. It’s the best thing I ever did.
Naomi sells The Big Issue on Adelaide Street, Brisbane.
Interview by Anastasia Safioleas.
Photo by Barry Street.