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15 September 2014

Ronnie

photograph by Josh Thies

I’m a traveller. I seek knowledge and wisdom from new places – Asia, Russia, South America, Europe, the South Pacific – it’s part of who I am. I was born in Hammersmith, London, 68 years ago. We all wore Beatles jackets back in the 1960s. We saw all the bands, The Who, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles of course.

I left in 1967 to go and see my mother in Israel. She escaped the Holocaust. I ended up in the Six-Day War, driving tanks. In six days I think I got four hours sleep, just catnaps. It was brutal.

I left for Africa, travelled a bit, then got myself back to London. I had problems with my mental health, time in hospital and medication. It’s good to see some improvement in the system since those days.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that I came to Australia by boat from Cape Town [South Africa]. Arrived in Perth and started painting houses straightaway. There was plenty of work then, not like now.

I’ve been homeless for 20 years, in and out of shelters. It taught me to value honesty and truthfulness and non-violence. Nine months ago I got my first council flat in East Brisbane. It’s nice and safe.

I sold The Big Issue when it first started in the UK [1991]. I met the lady who got it going, Anita Roddick, a very nice person. I’d go down to Soho and sell in the red-light district. It was good fun.

I’ve been selling The Big Issue for six years down at the Stock Exchange. I work Monday to Friday in the mornings. Meeting people is what I enjoy. You’ve got to be happy and polite to everyone. My customers are great. I want to thank them all for buying the magazine and supporting me.

This year I did some promotion for The Big Issue. Me and a guy from Norton Rose Fulbright, a big legal firm in Brisbane, sold the magazine together to try to get more people to understand what The Big Issue is all about. More sales is what we need. I also go to the breakfast meetings each fortnight when the new magazine comes out. We talk about sales figures and what’s inside the edition. It’s business.

I’d like to go travelling again. I speak three other languages: French, German and Spanish. It’s been a lifetime of travel and I don’t want to stop now.

 

Interview by Judy Johnson
Ronnie sells The Big Issue on Eagle Street, Brisbane.