15 December 2016

Shane, Geelong

Photograph by James Braund

I lived in West Footscray till my folks decided to move here in 1990, bit of a change from the hustle and bustle. I found it hard doing Year 12 at a new school, did about half a year and then went to work. I worked at IXL and a supermarket until I began part-time disability work from 1996 to 2003.

I’d had open-heart surgery when I was younger and felt I had empathy for what people go through. I worked up to 25 hours a week – I used to take a blind guy out for a swim, another guy had Asperger’s and I’d take him out at lunchtime. The clients were great and I enjoyed working with them.

I met Tanya – she is the love of my life. We did a
disability awareness course in 1994, couldn’t take our eyes off each other. I gave her a call, set up a date and we got married in 1999. Tanya has cerebral palsy. She gets around in an electric scooter, does the shopping, is a great girl. I
went on the carer pension and it was helpful to be able to sell The Big Issue because I can come and go as I want, pick my own hours and be there for her when she needs me.

I’ve had paranoid psychosis since about 2003 – it
affects the way you handle situations on a bad day. I manage it with medication and counselling. We need to get better about understanding depression and psychosis, because it’s something that doesn’t just affect the people that have it; it affects all of society. A better understanding would make it easier not only for the people who have it, but also for the people around them.

I started selling The Big Issue in 2007. I have
a love and a passion for it, I believe in it. If you’re lucky enough to have that, you don’t mind what the conditions are – you can stand out there in rain, hail or shine. The customers are the real stars of
the show, because if they didn’t open up their hearts and their wallets, we wouldn’t have a job.

I do Tuesdays and Thursdays at Westpac in Moorabool Street from 1pm to 5. Not quite as many people as at my old Market Square pitch, but after nine years I was losing my mojo there and needed a challenge. I relaxed and didn’t have high expectations. People were turning up and I realised it was bringing out the best in me, and some old
customers have found me down there. It’s good to talk to them – the people make your day.

I can’t imagine myself doing another job now, this is the greatest job I’ve ever had. Everybody in life hopes to find that one job that they love and are passionate about. I’ve got Tanya, I’ve got the Issue and I’ve got some close friends. I’m lucky I’ve got support, I’m better off than some. 

This article was first published in Ed#521 of The Big Issue.

Interview by Peter Ascot
Shane sells The Big Issue at Moorabool st, Geelong