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11 June 2013

Craig

"I lived in Traralgon, Victoria, for 18 years, went to Darwin for six, been back [in Melbourne] 12 years. Darwin was a laidback kind of place; people don’t judge you on what you wear or what you do. You can sleep on the beach up there, the weather’s good. Did a bit of recreational fishing off a boat. Full of crocodiles – you could pull a barramundi in and a croc’s on it. 

I am scared of heights but my brother-in-law offered to pay for me to go skydiving, if I was willing. I was even scared of normal diving boards. Nothing like 14,000 feet up in the air, it was a bit of a rush. 

Years ago I used to sell door-to-door, did a bit of car detailing and washing. When I came back to Melbourne I did the carnie work, and travelled to Sydney for the Royal Easter Show, spruik for the games. It’s dropped off in the last few years. 

I had four seizures in one day, two of them were like mild strokes. They said I was born with a blood clot in my brain, which doesn’t [take effect] till you’re in your twenties. It was an AVM [arteriovenous malformation – abnormal connection between arteries and veins], so I had radiation treatment to deal with a lump. On top of that I had an aneurism, which caused a brain injury. I still can communicate, but I have trouble – finding the right word, with my memory. I can’t read anymore. I’ve lost motivation, and I’ve got problems with writing. 

In 2010 I asked one of the [Big Issue] vendors what it was all about, got an appointment and went in. I got straight into it and it went pretty well, sold 20 on my first day. I work Monday to Friday at Parliament Station, either Nicholson St or Lonsdale St [CBD], and on the weekends in Lygon St near the new Brunetti cafe [Carlton]. 

I spruik, I don’t sit there and say nothing. Whether it’s a nice day or if it’s cold, I exaggerate and they get a laugh out of it. ‘There’ll be hurricanes, tidal waves, snowstorms, avalanche, asteroids hitting us, world’s gunna turn upside-down and do a 360 degree spin.’ Some people call me the Weatherman, or Happy Jack – I get a kick out of it. 

I like me footy, barrack for Carlton. And I like playing Aussie Rules footy, have played in the Reclink competition for 10 years, for the Western Storm and the Collingwood Knights. I play all over – backline, in the middle, half-forward flank, forward pocket, back pocket.

I’ve got a little five-year-old as well, who’s now at prep, so I can’t see her during the week. She lives with her grandparents, and I get on well with them. 

Earning has given me confidence and self-esteem, and I get a kick out of doing it, getting out there and enjoying the job, having fun. I get to know my customers, and talk to them. It’s not actually about selling the mag, it’s about getting people to smile. They walk past and look miserable; they’ve got sad faces. My message to everyone? Think positive – have a lovely day!"

Interview by Peter Ascot/ photograph by James Braund
Craig sells The Big Issue at Parliament Station and Lygon Street, Melbourne.