I have always had a lifelong love of learning. Even from a young age I loved solving puzzles and was interested in mysteries. I was passionate about forensics and wanted to do police work when I was older, but my passion was put on hold because I had epilepsy growing up.
I am the eldest of four siblings, and all but one of us still live in Perth, along with my mum and dad. I had a pretty regular upbringing, apart from the epilepsy. The strong drugs I had to take affected my ability to learn and take in information. I remember sitting around the family table and the conversation having moved on by the time I had processed what was being said. While I was advanced at primary school, I needed extra help at high school from my grandmother, who was a retired teacher.
After school, the epilepsy really impacted my employment. Back in the 80s, if you had a medical condition you were put in a box and put to one side as if something was wrong with you. During this time, I was packing fruit and veg and doing home maintenance, before we started a family business making household and industrial paint, which I stuck at until 1999.
When I was 29, I had a life-changing operation that cured me of my epilepsy. I was only the second person in WA to have the operation and it was 100 per cent successful. I went from taking a huge amount of medication to absolutely nothing. I felt huge relief in not feeling like a walking zombie anymore. I was no longer a step behind the rest of the world.
This opened the door for me to study and seek out new opportunities, and in 2002 I did a Cert II in Business and then I did a Cert IV in Security and worked in that field for a time. In 2010, I started an associate degree in Criminology and Justice at Edith Cowan University. Now I am studying to finish that and am also doing a bachelor’s degree in Biomed Science with a major in Forensic Science. I love studying. You really don’t realise how much you must go through to put the pieces together to solve a crime. I hope to be all finished within the next couple of years and find work in my chosen field.
I found my way to The Big Issue through my friend Ron, who has been a vendor for years. I have known Ron since he used to sell the Saturday paper at Carousel cinema many years back. I find selling the mag good. You have to get used to the fluctuations of bad days and good days, but the best approach is to be friendly. The extra money helps me with buying food and other bits and pieces I need, and the flexibility of The Big Issue is helpful as I can work it around the days I am studying at university.
Owen sells The Big Issue at Dome Café, Brookfield Place, Perth.
Interview by Andrew Joske.
Photo by Ross Swanborough.