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12 March 2013

Kerry-Anne

"I’d lived here in Adelaide all my life, till I went to Melbourne in 2009 for three or four months with my partner, Rick. He’d sold The Big Issue before in Melbourne and asked me if I wanted to give it a try; said I had nothing to lose and a lot to gain. And I’ve done it ever since.

Finally I decided it was time for me to go back home – my family and my friends are all in Adelaide. My father owned his own camera shop along with my grandfather, till he sold it over 20 years ago to become an aged-care worker. Mum stayed home and brought up the family. I’ve got one older sister. We speak occasionally; not that often.

Mum passed away last year. I had spent a lot of time with her, and looked after her for 16 years. She suffered from diabetes, cholesterol [problems] and high blood pressure.

I’ve got seasonal asthma, but epilepsy is the main challenge I face every day. I’ve had it since I was born. I’m on medication for it – it keeps me pretty well tamed!

I did all my schooling right up to Year 12. I didn’t mind English, but home economics and maths were my best subjects. I have done numerous hospitality courses since then and went out for jobs, like at the Clipsal 500 [annual motor racing event], working for the corporate boxes in the kitchens, or waitressing.

There are a lot of employers who aren’t willing to take the risk – or opportunity – with people who have epilepsy. I also worked at Morphettville Racecourse, Hindmarsh Stadium and AAMI Stadium, but it’s a good five or so years since I’ve done that sort of work, due to the epilepsy.

This is my fourth year of selling The Big Issue coming up. It’s suited me and I’ve made a lot of friends out of it – the vendors and the customers. I’d like to say g’day to [Victorian state operations manager] Gemma, who signed me up at the beginning. She’s funny, and good to talk to.

I’ve got my regular customers at the Hilton Hotel down by the Magistrates Court on a Thursday and Friday between 11am and 2pm – some of the lawyers and judges are my friends. My other spots are Telstra on Grenfell St on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Cibo cafe on the corner of Frome and Rundle streets on a Tuesday, where the people from the University of Adelaide and the Royal Adelaide Hospital know me now.

The rest of the time I catch up with friends, spend time with Rick, watch movies, listen to music. And I’ve got two cats, Taylor and Cham – they’re my children!

I would like to get back into mainstream work, but I’ll keep doing The Big Issue for as long as I can. I know it’s something that will always be there, and you get to work the hours that you want to work. That’s something I really like about it."

Interview by Peter Ascot / Photograph by Nat Rogers
Kerry-Anne sells The Big Issue at various locations in Adelaide