I’ve been with the Women’s Subscription Enterprise for 10 years this year – it’s my longest job. Just through working at The Big Issue, I’m totally changed and everything’s so much better. I was in a drop-in centre, at Lou’s Place, and they asked me if I wanted a job, and I said yes. I was really struggling financially and pretty isolated. I hadn’t worked for a while – my last job was landscape gardening, before that I did French polishing and I worked in a service station looking after cars.
I was born in Sydney. I’m the youngest – I’ve got one brother, and I had two sisters. My mum died when I was 10, so I was given to my elder sister to look after me. She would’ve been in her early thirties, I think. She had to put me under state-ward welfare; I was uncontrollable. I think I was still a bit stressed from my mum dying and stuff. So yeah, I was a bit rebellious at a young age. I was in trouble a lot. I had a friend and he used to buy me alcohol, and I started drinking on the weekends. After I left school at 15, I got into more drugs…and I was out of home. That’s when I became homeless. It’s been on and off. I’ve been clean and sober since 2009.
A total life change was when I got housed. I can cook any time I want. I’ve got a beautiful, comfortable bed. I’ve got a cat, Lulu. I’m responsible. I adopted Lulu in 2011. It’s been the best thing because I’ve never been able to look after anything, and I’ve been able to look after Lulu. He had to have an operation. Because I’d worked, I’d saved money to go for a trip with my brother and his family – I was able to use that money to get Lulu the operation. It was just a good sacrifice. I can always go for a trip. Because I’ve been working, I was able to get a plaque to put on my mother’s grave. And I fixed the flat up. And I just lay-byed a mountain bike, cos around Sydney there are heaps of bike tracks – and I think that will give me a social side, a way to meet people with the same interests. In my recovery, I’ve gone to the gym, I’ve done yoga, I’ve done meditation. I’ve done so much, and nothing worked. The only thing that has worked for me is working at The Big Issue. I was having nightmares for years, and a few years ago it all stopped. It’s like working with The Big Issue has given me back some control. It’s being able to do things, when over the years I’ve been told that I wouldn’t be able to do so much, and then going and proving to myself that I can do it. I was meant to get back confidence and self-esteem and move on to other work. I got that back a long time ago. But it’s hard to find what’s better than what I have.
Terri works with The Women’s Subscription Enterprise in Sydney
Interview by Amy Hetherington
Photo by Peter Holcroft