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19 June 2012

Jason

Jason sells The Big Issue on the corner of Collins and Spencer Streets, Melbourne.

I was born with spina bifida. It hasn’t affected me: I can’t walk at all and use a manual wheelchair, but I’m cheerful. I can get in and out of cars, even get on and off motorbikes.
I can’t feel from the hips down; there’s no feeling in my legs. I’ve broken my ankle and my leg a few times, just moving the wrong way, but I can’t feel it. One time I broke my leg right up near my hip, and I knew I did that one, because it was floppy as anything. All the other times I’ve never known, except when I’ve heard the crack. It’s great not having the pain!
When I was really young I went to a special school, [before] Mum took me to a standard school. Then, because I had a lot of problems and operations on my back, it became too hard for Mum and I went back to school with accommodation at Yooralla [a disability support organisation] in Balwyn, Melbourne. That was hard. It’s been pulled down now for housing. I’ve outlasted it!

I was doing pizza boxes at Pizza Hut when I was younger, till one day they said I was no longer wanted. Then I started helping my mum out in her business, until the premises changed from [a place] near where I was living. Five years ago, I started selling The Big Issue. My housemate was doing it, so I thought I’d give it a go. It’s made heaps of difference. It helps me with a lot of things, like paying bills.

I’ve got a regular pitch, on the corner of Collins and Spencer streets, just outside Gloria Jean’s. It’s a really good spot, and I’ve got quite a few regulars who come and buy a magazine off me.

By the time I get to the city it’s about 11.30am, but it doesn’t start getting busy till midday, so that gives me time to get my magazines from the Collins Street Body Shop.

For the past three years I’ve been in a Harley [motorbike] club, the United HD Riders. All the guys there are really good and try to involve me. They lend me one of their helmets and take me as a pillion passenger on day trips, running around town. For my 40th, a couple of the guys came and got me at my place, and we had fish’n’chips in St Kilda.

At home I play on the computer – Facebook, mucking around like [playing] solitaire. Or watching TV – I’m an Essendon fan [in the AFL]. I see my mum each week; speak to her and my brother two or three times a week.

I could do computing jobs, but nobody wants to employ me. They prefer able-bodied people, which is really annoying because I’m just as able as them. I’ve got used to it and think, it’s their loss. Lucky I like selling The Big Issue!

interview by Peter Ascot
photograph by James Braund

Interview by Peter Ascot/ Photograph by James Braund
Jason sells The Big Issue on the corner of Collins and Spencer Streets, Melbourne.