I was born and grew up in South Australia. So my family are in Mount Gambier and Port MacDonnell. My mum and dad, they separated when I was about five. Dad remarried when I was eight, and my step-mum gave birth to two children. I still see them a bit, but I haven’t for a long time.

I didn’t really like school. I had a lot of friends but I wagged most of the time. I was a couple of years behind everyone else, so I just didn’t like it.

When I was 15 I left school and went into work at Softwood Holdings Limited, who got bought out by another company, CSR. I worked for them for 15 years. I started out as a cleaner, and worked my way up into operating machinery – I was putting edging on the laminate board. I became a safety rep at the factory. I really enjoyed it, and I had a lot of work mates.

And then when I was 30, I retired. It was only because of mental health reasons. I went on the Disability Support Pension. I was on that for a long time, didn’t work for a long time.

I had a brother, Darren. There was 18 months difference between us, so we were really close. In our time of need, we clung to one another. He died in 2002. It was really tough.

I always wanted to live in Canberra, so a couple of years after my brother passed on, I moved over here. When I came to Canberra I found it hard, money-wise. So I was coal biting, begging. And a lot of people would come up and feed me. It’s cold on the streets in Canberra. I was homeless for a lot of years, probably four or five years. I live in a flat through the ACT Housing Trust now though.

I’ve been selling the mag since May last year. I saw a guy selling The Big Issue and he said, “This is what you should be doing.” And I said, “Yeah, why not?”

When I first joined The Big Issue, I’d only been a vendor for like six or seven weeks when I ended up in the Canberra Times for our 25th birthday celebration. They took my photo and everything; it was good to be able to celebrate the anniversary.

When I’m not working, I love watching telly and movies and that. I love The Vampire Diaries. I’m a vampire buff. I love reading books – I get right into horror, vampire books. When I was younger, I was into Stephen King. I’ve read Bram Stoker’s Dracula; Interview With the Vampire, the book and the movie.

I love selling the mag because it gets me out of the house. I get to meet different people. I’ve known a lot of the vendors for a long while – since when I first moved to Canberra – so it’s good. The lockdown really sucked; I really suffered during lockdown. Once it shifted, I loved going back to work and making money.

I’ve got regular customers. When I go to the doctors to get my medication, the doctors and nurses even buy magazines off me. I’ve got a lot of good support.

Randy sells The Big Issue at Ainslie Shops, Canberra.

Interview by Melissa Fulton.

Photo by Rohan Thomson.