Editorial: Twenty…and Still Growing

3 June 2016 Sonya Clancy and Steven Persson

Editorial: Twenty…and Still Growing

When The Big Issue was launched 20 years ago, on the steps of Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station, only a handful of people had signed up to sell our magazine. Today, the fluoro vest worn by vendors has become a well-recognised symbol on street corners around the country, from Sydney to Darwin and Ballarat to Perth. A symbol of people working hard to change their lives, one magazine sale at a time.

We’re proud that since our first edition was released, The Big Issue has helped more than 6500 people earn an income. Vendors have sold more than 10 million magazines, earning them over $23 million. At a time when many print publications are declining, we have produced 513 editions – and sales remain strong. Thanks to our vendors, who are out there in all weather. And, of course, our readers – people like you – who stop and buy the magazine. We have also had incredible support from corporate partners and organisations around the country.

We are a business in the business of lifting people out of poverty. As well as the magazine, we have developed a number of self-sustainable social enterprises over the past two decades. All have made a marked difference to the lives of the most marginalised people in our community, helping to prevent – and help people out of – poverty.

The Big Issue Classroom was launched in 2009 to educate school students about homelessness and disadvantage, while giving those who have experienced hardship firsthand the chance to tell their story as paid guest speakers. We have reached more than 80,000 students nationally and provided more than 3000 guest-speaking opportunities to homeless and disadvantaged people.

In 2010, through the Women’s Subscription Enterprise, we helped to create employment for disadvantaged women. These women work in a supportive environment, hand-packing subscription copies of the magazine – giving them an income, job-skills training and pathways to a better future.

Our Community Street Soccer Program kicked off with a couple of soccer balls behind an inner-city Melbourne housing commission block in 2004. The idea was to encourage people from all walks of life to improve their health and reconnect with the community through sport. Today, the program has 18 sites across the country, giving hundreds of people the chance to play soccer each week.

Most recently, we have launched Homes for Homes, an initiative which will help raise an ongoing supply of new funding for affordable houses.

On our 20th anniversary, we would like to thank our board for providing the expertise and leadership that has helped our organisation to become what it is today. And our staff – whose hard work from the ground up makes what we do possible.

It has been a privilege to see our organisation grow from humble beginnings to a social enterprise of national significance. We thank you for your support and invite you to share our stories, as we reflect on 20 years of The Big Issue in this special edition.

Sonya Clancy, Chairman, and Steven Persson, CEO