26 April 2017

Ricky M, Adelaide

Photograph by Nat Rogers

This is my third year selling The Big Issue. I was staying at Unity Housing in the CBD doing nothing so one of the workers took me to The Big Issue office. I signed up on that day! I was eager and worked five days a week, 12 hours a day.

Most of my customers stop and chat. I sell at Artisan Café on Rundle Street, and at the Hungry Jacks and the Hilton. I enjoy being in public and chatting with other vendors. I have anxiety and schizophrenia and sometimes it’s a real struggle, but when I’m out there selling, it keeps me happy. Working at The Big Issue has helped me overcome some of my anxiety. I used to have panic attacks and now I have got over the fear. If I’m having a bad day I still try and stand there with a smile. I had low self-esteem but this job has really changed my whole life. I met my partner Kerry Anne at The Big Issue at the first Friday breakfast! She’s also a vendor. We’re engaged!

I get to save for things that I like, such as Sons of Anarchy memorabilia. And, of course, saving for our wedding. It’s hard living on the disability support pension. Without The Big Issue I wouldn’t survive.
I moved to Adelaide in January 2001. I love it here. I grew up in Newcastle. I was homeless when I first got here; I’ve had long periods of homelessness in my life. When you’re homeless you sleep with one eye open, always on the lookout. I found out about Unity through the Hutt St Centre. Now I’ve had stable housing for a few years. It’s made a big difference in my life.

I had a very hard time at school. I finished in Year 9 when I turned 16. I had a rough childhood. There are nine of us in the family! There are five boys and four girls; I am the fourth eldest. I keep in touch with my eldest brother, he’s in NSW. Haven’t seen Mum since I was two-and-a-half. Dad is still alive but I didn’t have a good relationship with him. I have kids. Jessie is my eldest daughter and Ricky is my eldest son, then there’s my other son Kerwin and daughter Hayley. I found out last year that I am part Aboriginal through my mum’s side. I was shocked but am glad that I found out and am really interested in Aboriginal culture and want to learn more about it.

I have a number of hobbies, mostly around creating things, gardening and pets. I have a green thumb and I just built an aviary – the nests are full of eggs! I’ve also built a fernery, a gazebo, a man cave, garden shed and established a tropical desert garden. I really enjoy using my hands and creating. I also have pet rats, Star and Furball are my favourites, mice named Snowy and Micky, fish, zebra finches and a cat called Fluffy.
My customer relationships are the best – the smiles and conversations make my day! I love it when my customers are happy. If they’re having a bad day I can cheer them up and when they leave happy I feel glad. That’s what it’s all about.

This article first appeared in Ed#534 of The Big Issue

Interview by Jess Parker
Ricky M Sells The Big Issue at various locations in Adelaide.