I’m originally from Wollongong but have been in Canberra for 20-odd years. I’ve been a labourer all my life, and when I first moved I found it a bit hard to fit in, because Canberra’s full of public servants. It’s not bad though – I’m quite happy. It’s hard to be homeless anywhere in Australia, but if you’re having a go at life, people around here will support you.
I’m one of six siblings and extremely close to my little sister and twin brother.
My dad was a hard man when I was a kid, but I’ve come to the realisation that he knew no different. I want to spend as much time with him as I can because he’s getting very frail. I went away for a couple of weeks with him recently, and without me selling the magazines I wouldn’t have been able to do that.
I did my back in a few years ago. I ended up on workers compensation but couldn’t afford where I was living. I had a motor home. When I bought it, I had all these dreams. I was going to travel around the country. I put it in a caravan park, but the motor blew up. I lost my motor home and everything I’d worked hard for. Now I’m starting again.
I was on the street on and off for four-and-a-half years the last time. My mate got me onto The Big Issue, and I’ve been staying with him while I look for stable accommodation.
I’ve been doing it for 18 months now and it’s been good for my self-esteem. I’ve got that sort of “don’t come near me” aura, but that’s just a defence mechanism I’ve had to have living on the street. Since I’ve been doing this, I tend to look people in the eye, and it’s brought me out of my shell.
I’ve got two beautiful dogs; they’re my best mates and I love them dearly. I got Lou recently, but Spanner has been with me for five years. He’s extremely protective, and I can’t really change him because when we were on the street he learned to be. I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have him.
My uncle’s wife said I could buy a little block of land out in the country next to her place. If I really put my head down and sell the mags, I think I can make it quite achievable. I’ve got to have dreams, otherwise the big picture just looks too big.
My whole life I’ve been into old cars. I’ve got a 64 EH Holden I’ve had since I was 17. By having a block of land, I could put it there and wouldn’t have to worry. I’ve been offered money for it, but I’ve never sold it. My daughter loves it, and my dream is to do it up real nice for her.
Life is going quick, and I want to be able to sit back and go, You didn’t waste your life – you achieved something. That’s what I’m doing. I never thought I’d be selling the magazines, but it has become a priority in my life. It’s because when I’m doing this, I’m doing good.
Ray sells The Big Issue at Kippax Fair Shopping Centre, Wanniassa shops and Charnwood shops, Canberra.
Interview by Lilian Bernhardt
Photo by Rohan Thomson