I was brought up in Kingston, which is a few miles south of Woodridge in southeastern Queensland. It was my mum, dad and sister at home, but Dad was away a lot. Eventually my parents split up, so Mum did a lot on her own. I found primary school difficult and didn’t like it much – but high school was awful for me. I was in the disability class, and I saw a lot of discrimination. There was no fanfare when I left, but I was happy to go.

After I finished up at school, I did a few different jobs. I was a labourer for my dad on a building site, but I didn’t like that much. I did some training in horticulture at a hospital, and we gave flowers to the nurses. I liked to learn about different kinds of plants and flowers. The contract fell through after a few months, which was a shame, but I have kept giving flowers to everyone I see ever since. I still like flowers and nature. In my spare time, I like to go for walks in the Botanical Gardens, or there’s some nice trees down at Musgrave Park or along the river.

Mum organised for me to do my bakery apprenticeship at Tip Top, and I stayed there for nine years. We worked from the afternoon, late into the night, so I was never able to have much of a social life. I didn’t like that at all. I wanted a different life, somewhere I had free time and I could do what I liked. I had a big fight with Dad and left. I tried to get a job in Toowoomba, but it didn’t work out. I had a breakdown and it took me a while to get better. Dad was good – he tried to get me my job back, and I did it for a little while. But in the end, I gave up baking.

I had no idea I had a disability until I was in my thirties. I didn’t get the disability support pension until my sixties. By then, it was very hard to find a job. Then someone at my church told me about The Big Issue. I was one of the first vendors. That was 26 years ago, and I’ve been selling the mag ever since.

I enjoy selling The Big Issue because I get to talk to lots of different people. The Big Issue is good for giving people a job, especially people with disability, and people who are homeless and need a second chance. I’ve made friends from selling and they buy mags from me. I get to make a bit of extra money and I can buy myself a new phone or laptop. I’m grateful to all my customers, and I’m optimistic about the future.

Interview by Olivia Wells
Photo by Barry Street

Ted sells The Big Issue at Queensplaza, West End Markets and Avid Reader in Brisbane.

Published in ed#692