Vendor Profile: Kim

24 March 2016 Andrew Joske

Vendor Profile: Kim

"I WAS BORN in Hobart and moved to Melbourne when I was six years old, with my three brothers and my mum and dad. Growing up, I was always surrounded by violence, abuse and drugs. As a result of being beaten as a small child I am completely deaf in one ear and have only 20 per cent hearing in the other.

It was good to be at school – an escape from the dysfunction of home. I was into all the sports, especially swimming. I managed to make it to the end of Year 9, but had to pay my own way for books and uniform, so I dropped out.

When I left school I joined the Air Force at the RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia, as a clerk and a radar technician. I have always been a hard worker, and ended up getting my sergeant stripes.

After the Air Force I ended up in Perth, where I met my husband in my early twenties. We were married for over 25 years. He was very controlling and I was subjected to years of mental abuse and anguish. I had three beautiful kids, two girls and a boy. During this time, I continued to work hard, often as a cook and a cleaner, and on the mines and sheep stations.

I was first introduced to drug-taking by my father when I was a child, so it was easy to fall back into it in my thirties. Being abused and bullied my whole life had resulted in me hating myself, and I used drugs to escape the pain. I was always careful to do it away from my kids, and make sure they were safe. It took me 20-odd years to come out the other side, and begin to rebuild myself and turn my life around.

I had always known about The Big Issue, but it was through meeting another vendor in Fremantle and at the suggestion of my partner that I decided to give it a go. I don’t judge anyone, and love meeting people from all walks of life. Since I started, I have not had many days off!

The Big Issue has helped me turn my life around, and the extra income has helped me a lot. I have made improvements to my home, including working on the vegie garden. It also helps me afford a night out once or twice a month.

The income, however, is only a small part about working for The Big Issue. I had almost turned off inside, I was so shy and nervous. Now I am feeling much more confident, and The Big Issue has improved my self-esteem. I get on well with all the other vendors and have made heaps of friends. I like to mentor new vendors, the same way other vendors did for me when I first started.

I love playing with my cats, and hope to get a small dog to take for walks soon. My dream would be to travel to Machu Picchu, and I also want to spend more time with my grandchildren. I don’t want to be rich, just happy!"

Kim sells The Big Issue at Fremantle Markets and Hay St, Perth.

interview by Andrew Joske photograph by Ross Swanborough

This article first appeared in Ed#507 of The Big Issue