Vendor Profile: Kate

6 February 2015 Katherine Smyrk

Vendor Profile: Kate

Photograph by James Braund

"I’ve been everywhere. I’ve moved every three months since I was 15 years old up until about three years ago. Sydney, Queensland, Melbourne, Shepparton, Wangaratta… You name it, I’ve probably been there or passed through there.

I’m the youngest of seven. My dad passed away in 1989, just after my seventh birthday. I don’t really have much to do with my siblings, but my mum, she’s a superstar. She’s the biggest impact in me life, she’s dealt with a lot. She got cornea transplants and rheumatoid arthritis, but she’s a soldier. She helped Dad go through his death, still looked after the kids, she’s a legend and a huge inspiration. We’re getting closer with age. As I get older, more experienced, it’s made me come to a bigger understanding and I get along with Mum heaps better now, you know? 

I couldn’t read until I was 12. But then I had an exceptional teacher, Viv Morton. She taught us how everyone is so different…showed me how my brain operated and how it would learn to read, so now it’s opened my mind to the world of books and writing. 

I love writing. When I was 16 I entered a writing comp and I won it. That was an accomplishment at 16, four-and-a-half years after I learned to read. 

It’s been a hectic last five years, to be honest. I’m a qualified chef by trade. The only reason I do The Big Issue now is that five years ago I started having seizures. I did the three-year education to get my chef qualification, then I did another five years of actually working as a chef, working me way up through the restaurants, going through the kitchen. 

I didn’t do much at school, so when I found the passion for cheffing, that put a fire in the belly. When I first had my seizures I was [close to] becoming a sous chef. So that’s a bit of a kick in the guts. 

Now I’m out there selling The Big Issue, which I’m so grateful for. I started about two years ago; I was homeless at the time, me and me dog, Gus, were sleeping in my swag. The Big Issue’s perfect for me, ’cos I don’t feel that I’m going to lose my job if I have a week of medical problems or anything like that.

I’ve had Gus for nearly eight years; he’s a moodle. Gus has got loyal fans of his own in the city, but at the moment he’s got prostate cancer. That’s a $470 vet bill that’s coming, so I’m working towards having that paid for by the time he goes into surgery. Selling The Big Issue helps with all those sorts of things. 

What I love about selling The Big Issue is the variety of people, from all walks of life. Some of the stories they share with me, when I share mine, there’s inspiration in it, there’s hope in it, there’s empathy in it. I like to be quite open to people’s perceptions of the world – it just helps you manage better, I think."

Kate sells The Big Issue in Melbourne.

» Interview by Katherine Smyrk, The Big Issue's Staff Writer/Editor.

This piece was first published in Ed#476.