Ed#421 Positive Connections

4 December 2012 Alan Attwood

Ed#421 Positive Connections

Let’s borrow the Tardis from Doctor Who for a moment and head back to December 2007. Things were different then. Australia was led by a prime minister it doesn’t have today. The US had a different leader, too. So did the UK, France and, closer to home, New Zealand. Nobody had heard of Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber or Gangnam Style, and if you’d mentioned a ‘GFC’ people would have assumed you meant takeaway chicken. We need the Tardis because it was five years ago that the price of The Big Issue last went up. Few other publications have not had a price rise in that time. From this edition, The Big Issue will sell for $6 instead of $5. The decision has been taken to ensure the long-term viability of the organisation, and the fundamental principle remains the same: our vendors make a 100% profit on each magazine they sell. Most importantly, this price rise means vendors can earn more money. With a cover price of $5, 10 magazine sales means an income of $25; at $6, the same number of sales generates $30. Frankly, I can’t think of anyone who deserves a pay rise more than our vendors.

This, the first $6 Big Issue, is a special edition with eight extra pages and focuses especially on the men and women who sell it. Our annual Christmas magazine features seasonal messages and reflections from vendors all around Australia. Every year, when I read these messages, I am especially struck by some of them. This time, I was impressed by the positivity: “Never give up,” says Michelle in Canberra, while Heba in Melbourne insists: “Be confident and don’t let people or life get you down.” In Perth, Dave advises: “Have a good read, have a good life,” while Daniel K in Adelaide aims high and wide: “One day, I would like to see world peace or be a billionaire.”

In these messages there is also a theme of connection, a reminder that exchanges between vendors and members of the public can be almost as important as magazine sales, as they help our people to feel like valued members of the community. In Sydney, Mark JW puts it simply: “One of the best parts is meeting other people.” Meanwhile in Brisbane (home of our cover model, Damo), James D describes an enduring friendship that started on the streets and concludes: “I have several similar stories that have nourished my core.” In addition to these messages, there are vendors’ contributions on the ‘Streetsheet’ page, as always, and also a special ‘My Word’ by Mariann B in Melbourne, who offers readers some insight into what vendors see and hear and think as they stand with their magazines amid the crowds.

Another Christmas edition means another year is drawing to a close. As always, there have been anniversaries, most notably our 400th edition early this year. More recently, The Big Issue marked its 10th anniversary in Western Australia. Since starting there with just a handful of vendors in 2002, The Big Issue has helped more than 200 disadvantaged people, some of whom have progressed into mainstream employment or even started their own businesses. Two of the original WA vendors, Devo and Gerald, are still selling today. In fact, Devo has sold every edition since the magazine’s launch in Perth – quite an achievement. As has happened elsewhere in the country, The Big Issue has ventured out beyond the capital cities: the magazine is now also available in Bunbury, Busselton, Broome, Margaret River and Albany.

Happy Birthday to all in the west; to them, and everyone else, Happy Christmas – or whatever this time of year means to you. In this very special edition, a bigger Big Issue, you’ll find plenty of seasonal stories. Most importantly, by buying the magazine – or even just reading it – you are supporting the people who sell it and boosting awareness of what we do. Lastly, to quote Perth vendor Flash, “may the best be yet to come”.