I’m in a good spot in my life at the moment, but that wasn’t always the case. My life started with open-heart surgery shortly after I was born. Luckily it went well, but I might need additional surgery to replace a valve later in life, so I can have a long life.

While my parents are from Africa, I was born in Perth. I’ve lived here all my life. My mum and three siblings are here. I live by myself with my two kids. Growing up, I struggled and had very few friends. I got bullied a lot, especially in school. I still managed to get to Year 12. After leaving school, I bumped around a few jobs over a few years. I did some bridging TAFE courses, worked at Hungry Jack’s, and did some reception and admin work. I quite enjoyed my time doing relief work at a childcare centre, too. Unfortunately, my mental health put a stop to that, and I went on a long journey of recovery.

I’ve had big struggles maintaining my weight, and have been in and out of hospital over the years. When I had my daughter, I was in a bad spot – no stable housing, no job – so she got put into foster care. I went through the courts representing myself and finally got her back when she was three. She’s six now, and has a little brother who is three. He’s lived with me all his life.

The Big Issue work helped me when I went to court. It showed that I’m able to have a job, that I’m reliable. Together with receiving stable housing, that was the reason I got my daughter back. My kids are my number-one priority in life and The Big Issue helps me give them a good childhood. I’ve turned my house into a child-friendly space. I’m saving up for a trampoline and a kids corner at the moment…and looking to get more play equipment for outdoors and indoors. It also helps me afford treats for them, and take them to the movies every once in a while. I love taking my daughter on mummy–daughter dates.

I enjoy the flexibility of the job. I can work when the kids are in day care and school, but can stay home with them when they’re sick. That’s why I got into selling The Big Issue in the first place. I like stopping by the office for a cuppa, catching up with the staff and chatting to other vendors.

If I think about the future, my dream is to take my kids on a holiday. I’d like to do a childcare or teacher aide course. Or start a business catering for children’s parties – I’d do decorations, party food, cupcakes and lolly bags to match the theme. And a bouncy castle and water slide, like I do for my own kids’ parties, too. My business will be called Shelleyboo Cupcakes/Partymix. I like to be creative.

Rochelle sells The Big Issue at the corner of William and James Streets, Northbridge, Perth

Interview by Simon Grammes
Photo by Ross Swanborough

Published in #694