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19 June 2012

Kelvin

I was born in Geelong, Victoria, and spent most of my life there. I was born premature and had very bad asthma. My lungs weren’t fully developed and I wasn’t expected to see out one year, let alone 52 years. I couldn’t play sport – still can’t – and that was hard because my two brothers played football. One nearly got accepted to play for Geelong, but he snapped his Achilles tendons in the trial sprints. I support Geelong; was born in blue and white. My grandmother knitted me the whole outfit, head to toe. I was at the 1963 Grand Final [won by Geelong] with my grandfather. I waited over 40 years and stuck with the Cats, so I’m enjoying their recent successes.
My dad was a truck driver, and on weekends we would go out fishing or rabbiting with him. We set out to get a few rabbits to eat, but during the plague it got to the stage where we were catching two thousand and we were supplying fresh rabbit to a number of butchers. Then some bright spark from the government put myxomatosis out, and the supply dwindled and ruled that out!
School was a bit hard because I’ve got a learning disability and my concentration levels weren’t too crash hot, but I managed. After Year 11 my goal was to get an apprenticeship, but I ended up with a labouring job at the meatworks, and then on the Ford production line.
Later, labouring jobs were just about wiped out by robotics and computers. I got out early and got a job at the Steggles poultry processing plant in Geelong. I stayed there for 10 years before moving into sales work – door to door. I sold telecommunications products and was doing well, until we found out the company was in liquidation. I went door to door working with a charity for a while, but the government decided to tighten charity collecting legislation. So in 2002 I ended up in Adelaide doing the same thing. I’d got on the bus to Adelaide with nothing – just the clothes on my back. Then I worked collecting trolleys off the streets and out of creeks. Later, though, my boss got caught by Fair Work Australia underpaying people, and instead of coughing up the dough he declared himself bankrupt. I went back to the meat industry, mainly kangaroos and wild boars for export to Russia. I started to get sick and had to stop work – it was diabetes and it took a few years to sort out.
I’d sold The Big Issue in Melbourne for about six months in 2002, and found it really good, so since late last year I’ve been selling it here in Adelaide. I don’t have a permanent pitch, but my best spot is on the corner of Rundle and Frome. I have a few regulars who keep an eye out for me. Everyone’s welcome to smile, stop and say g’day and buy The Big Issue!

 

Interview by by Peter Ascot / Photograph by Andy Rasheed (www.eyefood.com.au)
Kelvin sells The Big Issue in central Adelaide.