I grew up on a dairy farm in Murgon. Dad was very strict – he always told us that whatever you want in life, you have to earn it. Mum was really beautiful. She was Italian, which is where I get my work ethic from. Mum was a great cook. We had an old wood stove with a cast iron lid, and I used to chop all the firewood for her.
We never had much money. For us, a family holiday was going to stay with Uncle Johnny to help him paint his house! I’m a natural-born entrepreneur though. I’ve always found a way to make money. As a young boy, I’d be out mowing lawns for people in the neighbourhood. Around the age of 10, I started helping my uncle with his carpet-laying business and I was getting paid over $75 a day, which is great money for a 10-year-old! I missed a lot of school though, which didn’t bother me because I didn’t love school too much. I left school around 14 and started working full-time with my uncle.
In my twenties, I moved to New South Wales and worked on a flower farm, selling all sorts of flowers on the side of the road. I eventually moved back to Queensland – on the day I moved back, I met the love of my life, Trish.
I had arrived in Brisbane, and was asking directions from a couple of young ladies. One of the young ladies particularly took my eye; she was doing modelling at the time and was gorgeous. We ended up spending the day together. Three weeks later we moved in together, and the rest is history. We’ve never had a fight; we are still as in love now as the day we first met.
The other love of my life is my Bull Arab dog, Pinky. He is my best friend, even though he hogs my bed! He eats one whole chicken every day, which is 30 whole chooks a month! Paying my rent and feeding my dog is why The Big Issue money is so important to me.
Earlier this year, I bought an electric bicycle. I use it as my mobile shopfront for The Big Issue during the day, and I turn it into a mobile karaoke stand at night-time on the weekend. I even wired up my own Bluetooth speaker inside a Tupperware container! My life has been a journey of making things, whether that be carpentry, welding or designing things. I can pretty much fix or create anything.
I have been a Big Issue vendor since 2002, around the age of 30. I’ve been doing it for 20 years this year! I like working for myself, working my own hours, being my own boss, running my own show. I am one of the highest sellers in Queensland now. I have got to know so many beautiful people out there over the years. I don’t judge people: no matter who they are, whether they are in a uniform or casual, I give them a show. I love coming up with lightning-quick one-liners that match what’s on the cover of the mag. It always makes people laugh.
Tony G sells The Big Issue at Post Office Square, Brisbane
Interview by Lauren Tucker
Photo by Barry Street