Vendor Profile: Coral

19 February 2016 Peter Ascot

Vendor Profile: Coral

"I grew up in Brisbane, at boarding school. Mum was working at the Roma Hospital as the tea lady and Dad was working at the shire council.

I’ve had a really great life, I liked boarding school, then my first job afterwards was on the Roma town council in Queensland, and I’ve done a lot of sales work.

I got a job in Brisbane at a childcare centre, but the boss from the Roma council went and saw Mum and Dad and wanted to offer me a job, labouring. I love working with my hands.

I came to Bendigo to get away from my son’s father. Good choice, DHS [Department of Human Services] said, because he’s in more trouble than you could poke a stick at, in and out of jail. He’s still in Queensland, but sometimes he’s been seen in Bendigo [in Victoria]. He wants custody, but he won’t get it. He won’t get custody of Tinkerbell the cat either!

That’s why I don’t want a relationship; any relationship. I’d rather have a relationship with a cat – at least he doesn’t back-answer you or bash you! Just gets spoilt and goes ‘miaow’.

My son is 14-and-a-half years old. He’s in out-of-home care, and I have access to him every week. It’s because of my ex, what his father did. DHS wants to return him to me in November. I can’t wait!

I was a home mum, I love it. Still love it – even though he’s not in my care at the moment, I love it.

I’ve been selling The Big Issue for four years, since 2012. I live in Bendigo but I sell in Melbourne. It’s 90 minutes by express train. There are so many trains, and it costs me $20.20 return. I do it four days a week, Friday to Monday, at different pitches.
I’ve done the GPO, which gets busy, and I’ve also done Target in Bourke St Mall, and Flinders Lane at Little Collins. Today I’m at Lonsdale & Elizabeth streets, an excellent pitch. Sometimes it’s the morning rush, or lunchtime, but it’s always good in the afternoon when people are going home. I’ve got permanent customers who look for me every second Friday.

Fridays are good, people are absolutely rapt! I find Friday, Saturday and Sunday are good. People have more time to stop and chat on the weekends. People tell me I’m always well presented and smiling.

I love music, reading, writing and helping old or homeless people. We all could be in that situation one day. I go to church every second Sunday, but I don’t hound people about religion. I leave them to their own beliefs.

I want to be a manager of my own business. Confectionery business, door-to-door. I’m going to start a business course at Bendigo TAFE in March, at night. They fund money if you want to start your own business.

But I’ll keep selling The Big Issue. I’ll do both, it will keep me busy. I like it. It gives me something to do.

Beautiful day in Melbourne, I love it. Keep smiling!"

Coral sells The Big Issue at cnr Lonsdale & Elizabeth sts, (and other spots), Melbourne

interview by Peter Ascot photograph by James Braund

This article first appeared in Ed#505 of The Big Issue