Photograph by Nat Rogers
I was born in Wallaroo on the Yorke Peninsula, SA, in the mid-1950s, the eldest of six children. We moved around quite a bit, wherever my dad was working. My childhood memories consist of landscapes and beautiful coastline scenes. A few years of island life on the Spencer Gulf, interacting with and exploring local sea life.
At the age of 15 I joined the navy, but did not particularly enjoy the contrast of a heavily regimented lifestyle. After six years of service, I was offered an honourable discharge, which I promptly took.
Most of the family was entrenched in fishing somehow, mainly in the Yorke Peninsula area. I joined my father in his fishing business for about seven years and then I pursued a number of different fishing ventures on my own. Then one fateful day my whole world went topsy-turvy – I encountered a great white shark of possibly lethal proportions. This experience helped convince me in a few short minutes that there is more to life than extreme recreation. By then I had children who should not be denied the right to have a father to help raise them.
After this, I did all kinds of jobs; manual labour and working with heavy machinery. I moved around a lot, as well. I had a phobia about staying in the same place and other people had expectations about how I should live. I didn’t want a typical, routine office job. I like my personal freedom.
In 2010, I lost my employment in the lobster export industry. I was beginning to become sick – Parkinson’s disease, undiagnosed for years – and knew I wouldn’t be able to find new work. Parkinson’s is a neurological disorder – my deterioration won’t get better but hopefully it can be arrested. It’s a matter of medication, but that makes my words slur. It makes me more clumsy, and that will keep on happening till I can’t even drive and will have to rely on others. But still I wanted to do something and get the best out of my life while I can. Job agencies suggested I try The Big Issue, so I did, starting in March last year.
I sell at Adelaide City Council chambers, Haigh’s in Rundle Mall, Pirie St and also at Norwood. I have my regulars and I enjoy being out there. The job is flexible, productive and a fair way to make a living. It allows me to attend to medical needs, which will become increasingly more important.
I was also part of the writers’ workshop last year, which was great. I had my work published in a ‘Voices’ pamphlet that featured a lot of other vendors writing and expressing themselves. I plan to continue that in the future, particularly if I become too sick to work.
I have three daughters, four stepchildren and five grandchildren – I love spending time with them and their kids. Family is very important to me. Selling The Big Issue keeps my head above water, improves my quality of life, and allows me to fund visits to my family.
interview by Matt Stedman and Peter Ascot
photograph by Nat Rogers
This article first appeared in Ed#489 of The Big Issue.