30 August 2013
Photograph by Andy Rasheed
"I was born in Melbourne and came over to Adelaide when I was six – Dad was in the printing business and got transferred here. I went to Elizabeth Grove Primary and Elizabeth High, and still live at Elizabeth South.
I was born with a learning disability. I was in special classes by the end, and during Year 11 I left and got work through employment agencies. I got a factory job in a plastics maker, and was there for about a year, before moving on to another factory, which made sprinklers. I went really well there, was really fast and got 12 promotions in 12 months. Unfortunately, they closed down after two years.
I worked for a supermarket chain doing trolleys – worked there for four years. I was fired – I got hit by a car, but not at work, and couldn’t do the job. We challenged the unfair dismissal and they reinstated me, but I got a hard time and ended up unemployed for three or four years.
I got assembling work at places that employ people with disabilities…but some places only pay $1 an hour, and I didn’t want to work for that. So, about four years ago, when my friend told me about The Big Issue, I thought I’d give it a go.
It was slow at first, but I stuck with it as I was making sales and getting some extra money. It’s nice meeting people and getting out of the house, doing something, not sitting at home. Now I’ve got a regular pitch outside the Rundle Mall Body Shop every Wednesday. I do the main train station in the morning from seven, then go to the Body Shop at 10.
The Public Trustee handles my money. The Big Issue gives me a bit of extra money in my pocket for things I need, like extra food, or things like a backpack or clothes.
Mum passed away when I was 30, and Dad two years later. I don’t see my sister much, because she’s busy with work and kids. I wouldn’t mind visiting my Gran, Nan and cousins in Melbourne. I’ve had to fend for myself for quite a few years, but luckily enough I’ve got friends around, which helps.
After a run of unstable housing, I’m now in a Housing Trust place with my girlfriend and a friend. I was married for a year, and now I’m in a relationship with my ex-wife, Loretta. We ended up giving it another go.
For the last four or five years I’ve played Aussie Rules in a C7 disability league for my team, Gaza Football Club. I’ll have to retire from that shortly, due to arthritis in my legs. I’m trying my best for as long as I can do it. I also bowl in a tenpin bowling league at Elizabeth, with a teammate who is also a Big Issue vendor. Life’s good at the moment and I just want to continue on."
Interview by interview by Peter Ascot/photograph by Andy Rasheed
Paul sells The Big Issue in Rundle Mall, Adelaide