Vendor Profile: Pamela

7 May 2015 Peter Ascot/Samuel Clark

Vendor Profile: Pamela

Photograph by Peter Holcroft

"I’m of Jewish background. My father grew up in Bombala, southern NSW, and I took my husband down there about 10 years ago for a look. But I grew up in Beverly Hills, Sydney, with two sisters and a brother. We’re all still alive and kicking!

My school days were not very good. I’m not the brightest of people! But I get by. I have a non-specific learning disability. I left school at 15, but went back when I was 48, just to a normal school – with a bunch of kids my daughter’s age. I was trying to do the HSC. I didn’t get through it, but I actually enjoyed it.

From school I went to business college, to learn to type. I got a job in an office. I did that for about 10 years. I married in 1972 and we had two children who also have disabilities.

My husband, Manny, was selling The Big Issue, but now he works as a swimming instructor. Our two daughters live with us: Michelle has worked at Coles for 16 years; Fiona is also doing really well. Two years ago she was selling The Big Issue, too, at Maroubra, but now she has a job at Red Rooster.

Given the right situation, I believe all people with disabilities can grow. Selling The Big Issue helped Fiona get the job she’s got because she was learning how to count money; she had to do that when she sold a magazine. She had to make sure she had the right change to give to customers.

I used to sell at the shopping centre on Anzac Parade, in Maroubra, which is not far from where we live. But it was difficult to compete with other people there – charity collectors walk through your pitch, stand right on top of you.

More recently I sold in Rose Bay, but I haven’t been doing it for a while because I just didn’t feel right, I felt unwell. I’ve just been in hospital for pneumonia – hear that cough? It’s not too bad; better than it was. I’ll have to come back as an outpatient.

I also have mobility issues – I have to ride a scooter or walk with a walking frame, and am getting carpal tunnel in my wrists, and a neck injury, torn rotator in my shoulder.

So at the moment I can’t do the Women’s Subscription Enterprise either, with my hand. When I can, we pack magazines to send out to subscribers, seven of us. It’s good; the girls are nice and friendly.

I usually crochet at home. I’m making my little dog a blanket. We have three fish, two parrots and a beautiful Chihuahua-Jack Russell. One Indian ringneck parrot, yellow with a red ring on his neck. The lorikeet says, ‘Where’s Pam?’"

Pamela has worked with the Women’s Subscription Enterprise in Sydney

>>> interview by Peter Ascot and Samuel Clark 

This article first appeared in Ed#482 of The Big Issue.