Our Top 10 Letters of 2013!

16 December 2013 Editorial Team

Our Top 10 Letters of 2013!

Deutsche Fotothek

The Big Issue is a magazine sold on the streets across Australia by vendors who are homeless, marginalised or disadvantaged. We regularly receive letters from readers, often describing their encounters with Big Issue vendors. As a result, our magazine's 'Your Say' page tends towards the ridiculously heartwarming. Read our 10 favourite letters from 2013 and you'll see what we mean.




Craig is a regular vendor at Lygon Court in Carlton, Melbourne. I imagine that, like most vendors, he is not wealthy. Recently I bought a copy of The Big Issue from him. Soon after, I saw him drop $5 into a donation box for the charity Swags for the Homeless, saying that a couple of customers had given him extra money that day. I was touched by his generosity. Tony, Kensington, Vic


This morning Big Issue Bill informed me that, due to ill health, he has to give up selling The Big Issue at Sydney Central Station after 16 years. He is famous around the area for his kind spirit and unyielding enthusiasm. He will be greatly missed and I know I am not alone in wishing him all the best for the future. Laura, Oatley, NSW

We have received many letters since Bill (pictured right) announced that he is going into semi-retirement. He is Sydney’s longest-serving vendor and a great ambassador for The Big Issue  –Ed.


After running to catch a tram on Swanston Street recently, I accidentally left a bag containing my laptop, smart phone and a pile of just-marked student exams on an outdoor seat. I was a couple of blocks away before I realised. I raced back to the seat but, of course, the bag was gone. Heart racing, I went to the police station, without much hope, only to find Mark, who sells The Big Issue on Swanston Street. He was at the counter, handing in my bag. This gentleman did the honest thing and saved me a lot of grief. If you see Mark, please buy The Big Issue from him! Melvyn, via email

Mark says it was an honour to hand in your stuff and he’s glad you got it all back – Ed.


I’d like to send a big thank you to Willy, the Big Issue vendor on the corner of Elizabeth and Little Collins streets [in Melbourne]. He looked after me when I fainted in front of him today. Rowena, Pascoe Vale, Vic

Willy was happy to help and says he hopes you’re feeling better now –Ed.            


I first met [Melbourne Big Issue vendor] Denis in St Kilda when I was 19 and working at a bakery to get through uni. Since then there have been other degrees, other part-time jobs, and one of the links over the years has been buying The Big Issue from Denis, either in the CBD or in  St Kilda. Having just returned from three years interstate for work, surviving the first day in a new job, who do I see on my way to the train this arvo? Denis – at the corner of Bourke and Spencer streets, selling The Big Issue! I'm turning 30 this year and could not ask for a better homecoming. Seeing Denis today truly lifted my spirits (and of course I bought the current edition!). Jess, Daylesford, Vic

Denis remembers you well, Jess, and says he really enjoyed catching up with you again, too – Ed.


My daughter and I found $150 in the gutter outside the local post office yesterday. We asked around – nobody claimed it. We rang the local coppers and they suggested a charity was better than a three-month stint in the police station safe. We asked for suggestions. Someone suggested a punt on the Melbourne Cup. Bugger that! We like The Big Issue. Please find the loot in your account. Christobel, via email


For the past year I’ve been buying magazines from Big Issue vendor Craig, who sells outside the Rialto Towers in Melbourne, but I’ve recently changed jobs and don’t work in the city anymore. I wanted to let Craig know how lovely it’s been chatting to him, and what a positive and inspirational man he is, with big ideas and a big heart. Best of luck with all your plans, Craig! Susannah, Hughesdale, Vic

Response from Craig: Thank you very much, Susannah, and to all those people at the Rialto who let me into their hearts and who love my advice and my jokes.  A very, very, very, very warm thank you and love to all.


I was saddened to hear about the passing of [Brisbane vendor] Raph. I bought my magazine from him for about 14 years (almost as long as he was selling them). I wanted to take the opportunity to say, publicly, how much I admired him. He was so gentle and unassuming…and how can I forget the ‘Raph salute’? I will miss him very much. Farewell, my friend. Marianne, Taringa, Qld

This is one of many letters and social media posts we received from customers and fellow vendors when Raph (pictured above), died this year. He was one of the original Brisbane vendors.


I was cycling past Redfern Station in Sydney recently when I stopped to buy the latest Big Issue from a woman sitting on a milk crate. “Is it still $6?” I asked, unzipping my pocket. “Yeah, sister, $6,” she replied. “Okay.” I handed her a $10 note. She looked back at me, slightly incredulously. Then she said: “I don’t have any change.” I considered my options. Maybe I should take back the $10 note and say I’ll get it later. Or find another vendor. Or… Anyway, I cycled off with my copy. Later, I discussed  the scene with friends over lunch. We wondered whether it was a scam or just an awkward exchange between a white professional on an expensive bike and an Indigenous local woman. Hours later, cycling home, I spotted her still there. “Oh!” she said, “I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting.” And immediately handed me the $4. I handed it straight back. Gillian, Bronte, NSW


Recently a couple came up to me to buy a Big Issue mag. They both looked like they had full-time jobs and led busy lives. Once I had given them the magazine and had a little chat, I was gobsmacked when the guy took out all the change in his pocket, which totalled $75, and said “Keep the change.” I told him that I am not homeless, but I have a wife in a wheelchair and am on a carer’s pension. The guy then replied, “That’s okay; all’s good.” Now don’t get me wrong – the money was great, nearly doubled my sales – but it’s the understanding behind that tip that I want to say thanks for. These are people who know that, as a Big Issue vendor, whether you are homeless, disabled, a carer, unemployed or otherwise – you’re just having a go and want to contribute. So, to you guys: thank you! Shane, Big Issue vendor in Geelong, Vic


The Big Issue Christmas bumper edition and The Big Issue 2014 calendar are on sale now. Both are just $6. Help out our vendors and buy a magazine or a calendar this Christmas. With each sale, your vendor makes $3. You can also subscribe to The Big Issue and help marginalised women through our Women’s Subscription Enterprise


*letters have been edited for length