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19 June 2012

Ernie

Since I had the car accident, I don’t remember having other jobs or much about my life. I know I went to an opportunity school, but didn’t like learning much. I know my dad died, but I’m not sure about Mum. I’ve got a daughter somewhere. You see, I lost my memory and just can’t think properly any more.
One of my proudest moments was the day I sold The Big Issue alongside the Mayor of Ipswich. He’s a good guy – helping us launch the magazine there last year. I hope The Big Issue can work in Ipswich because I want to stay and keep working.
Sales started off slow, but now more and more customers are starting to recognise the magazine. I really like meeting all these new people or just saying hello to people I already know.
I’ve been selling The Big Issue for six years now, in Brisbane before Ipswich. It’s a good job and I thank my regular customers for that. When I sell a magazine, I tip my cap and say, ‘Have a good day, ma’am’. I usually work every day from nine in the morning until four in the afternoon. It keeps me out of mischief.
Some of my mates were having a hard time, so I told them about The Big Issue and now they’re selling it, too. It’s helped me put a roof over my head. I’d been living on the streets for about four years. Sleeping on park benches, in churches, under stairs. You never get comfortable with it. People always hassling you for money and telling you off. Once I started selling The Big Issue, I had my own money and something good to do.
I live in a shared room – it’s pretty good. Got my own TV, own shower, cooked meals provided. My favourite is spaghetti bolognaise, but the chicken is good, too. Once a week, I go to the $2 barbecues in Queens Park. I used to live in another hostel, but they had too many rules. I do what I want now. I’ve got good friends – we play pool. I’ve got a couple of dogs, too – Lady and Cody. They just had pups, so I’m trying to find them homes.
I’m glad winter is coming. I can put on my fleecy jacket and get out there and sell. Saturdays are the best day, so I always look forward to that. Otherwise, I just stay at home and sleep. I watch The Simpsons sometimes. You know, I really like little Maggie and the way she sucks on that dummy. Bart’s good, too, a bit cheeky.
I’m going to head home now – they’ve got my dinner waiting for me. But if you see me out and about, I’m always up for a chat, so stop by and say hi.

Interview by Judy Johnson / Photo by Joshua Thies
Ernie sells The Big Issue at the Ipswich Mall in Ipswich, Queensland.