Vendor Profile: Robert

17 July 2015 Andrew Joske

Vendor Profile: Robert

Photograph by Ross Swanborough

I have always been a Perth boy and come from a large family. My mum lives in Armadale [in Perth] and I have four sisters and one stepbrother. I see them regularly, and my sisters sometimes visit me when I am working on my pitch to hang out and chat. They are going to help me sell this edition!

When I was a young boy, I had an accident that left me with an acquired brain injury and cerebral palsy. I keep a sense of humour about it, and make sure I always stay positive. I have often been told that I am well known in Perth for my massive smile and wicked sense of humour!

I attended the Centre for Cerebral Palsy [now the Ability Centre] when I was a child, and my favourite activity was colouring, which I still enjoy to this day. I also went to ‘Options’ and did voluntary work washing out pots. For many, many years, until recently, I lived in a group home where I often had very little to do. As a result, I spent a lot of my time bored and frustrated.

I am lucky to have a close family, because they worked hard to find me a new place to live. Now I live with Claire and Barry, and over the past 15 months they have become like family to me. We have a new dog, Ella, who I love to walk, and I also enjoy helping around the house. I love colouring in drawings that Claire does for me, and giving them to people as gifts – including a special Big Issue painting we made for the Perth office. It is now on the wall behind the front desk!

I have worked selling The Big Issue for almost a year now. I am 48 and this is my first-ever paid job! I got in contact with The Big Issue after I met a vendor and she explained to me what the job was all about. I couldn’t wait to start selling.

I work in the Murray Street Mall outside the Carillon City Arcade every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I can usually be found with my ‘personal assistant’, Hamish. We swap chairs every day and I enjoy getting out of my wheelchair. I also enjoy dancing while on my pitch.

I love interacting with people and bringing a smile to their faces. I have several regulars now. I gave Cecilia a painting to thank her for being a loyal customer, and Ron not only buys the magazine but also gives me a card for a free coffee. I also see other vendors, who often stop and chat and have become my friends – especially Bill S.

The Big Issue has become a really important part of my life. I look forward to getting out of bed on a Monday morning to head to work, and the extra money from selling the magazine has made a huge difference to my finances and independence.

In the future, I hope to continue selling The Big Issue and look forward to meeting many new people. I love my job!


interview by Andrew Joske photograph by Ross Swanborough

This article first appeared in Ed#487 of The Big Issue.