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18 July 2014

Doug

“Our family was a pretty mixed bag. I’m one of six, but my father was a violent alcoholic and I never knew him. I’m a recovering alcoholic myself, and have got bipolar mood disorder. I spent 17 years living on the bottle and taking drugs. I ended up in hospitals and drinking in the parks.

I’ve been sober now for 19-and-a-half years; that’s what saved me. I would have backed out a long time ago otherwise. I done a bit of amateur boxing when I was young, and I still work out on the bags, believe it or not.

I hated school because I was bullied. I left school at 14 and fell into petty crime. I spent three-and-a-half years in juvenile correctional centres, had two short stays in Goulburn jail. I married at 19 and separated at 23. I have three children from my marriage.

Had a wide range of jobs, but never liked any of them – labouring jobs, city parks for a while, driving the ‘Vinnies’ truck, shops, post offices, courier work. I loved driving, but never liked working for bosses. Always had problems with authority.

Been selling The Big Issue for nine months. I was a bit reluctant at first because I thought I wouldn’t make much of a salesman, but I love it. First job I’ve actually enjoyed and, at 58, it’s the longest I’ve ever had a job.

Love working my own hours, enjoy meeting people and have built a good customer base. I love the support I get, and it has helped my self-esteem and confidence.

Each time a new edition comes out, I work 10 days straight, at Cooleman Court [shopping centre] in Weston Creek from Monday to Thursday, then up at [Canberra suburb] Ainslie from Friday to Sunday. I’ve got my own car, so if it’s a quiet morning at Cooleman I’ll duck over to Ainslie. I always pick up the slack somewhere.

I’m very homely, been living on me own 23 years. I’ve got two cats, live in a quiet neighbourhood. I love movies; I’ve watched over 3000 DVDs. Computers passed me by, though! I watch television, love music and I like gardening. The backyard is getting there.

Forgiveness is a hard thing. I’m in touch with my two daughters, but my son hasn’t spoke to me for about eight years and doesn’t allow me to see my only grandchild. I suppose one of the joys I get selling the magazine is that I see a lot of children out and about – see them laugh and play. In one way it makes me sad, but in another way it gives me a bit of joy.

The Big Issue has got me out of home and I’m not sitting around. It’s given me a bit of a life – I’ve been able to maintain a car, and have been down the south coast and have done a couple of day trips. I value my customers very much, they’ve given me a lot of support. I enjoy being out there. ”

Interview by Peter Ascot
Doug sells The Big Issue in Ainslie and Weston Creek, Canberra.