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3 April 2013

Janine

"I’m a happy-go-lucky person. Happy to be settled and happy to have a job. When my husband and I first arrived in Brisbane two years ago we were on the streets with our little dog, Cracker. It was hard to get meals and I was scared all the time because we had to sleep behind churches, in public toilets and at the back of buildings. We got into a boarding house, but it wasn’t safe. 

My husband is always in and out of hospital. He’s a landscaper, but has a bad heart and asthma. So when the housing people showed us a one-bedroom unit we said ‘yes’ as soon as they opened the front door. It’s so nice to sit back in our big recliners and watch TV. 

I’ve moved around a lot in my life, but I finally feel settled. I grew up in Tassie on a dairy farm and I’m still an early riser. We got up at 3am to milk the cows. It was early for kids who then had to go to school. I went to a special school. It was okay, but I had to leave when I was 12 because of my migraines. I hate the jolly things. I’m 49 now and still get them almost every day. It’s a long time to have a headache.

After school I just stayed at home and worked on the farm until Dad fell out with his dad and we had to leave the farm. We hit the road in a caravan and went all over Tassie while Mum and Dad looked for a suitable place for us. I loved it. Something new all the time. After about a year we got a house. I remember it being flea-infested and brown water came out of the taps. I wanted to go back to the caravan.

I left home when I was 22 to live with my boyfriend, who became the father of my two children. He was very controlling; a drinker; he beat me and was very cruel to the kids. I always wanted to leave but stayed 16 years too long. Anyhow, the good news is I ended up falling for one of his mates and finally left with him. We’ve been together 11 years now and I’m happy.

I really like selling The Big Issue. It suits me because I can work my own hours and go home if I feel a headache coming on. I want to build up to having regular customers. I really enjoy meeting different people when they stop for a chat. It would be nice if there were a few more female vendors selling – there’s not many of us.

I have my granddaughter on school holidays so I bring her with me when I’m selling. She’s so cute; seven years old with big brown eyes and curly hair. She sits beside me and loves it because people bring her colouring books and Barbies. 

I’m so happy to have this job."

Interview by Judy Johnson/photograph by Joshua Thies
Janine sells The Big Issue outside the GPO, Queen Street, Brisbane.