20 September 2018



AnneMarie works at the Downing Centre near Museum Station, Sydney.

I started at The Big Issue back in 2008 when I was homeless and couch surfing. I ended up staying with another vendor and he introduced me.

I’m originally from New Zealand. Born in Wellington, I grew up in Auckland from not a rich upbringing, but I had everything provided.

I suffered from some abuse growing up. At the young age of 14 I was at school and doing drugs like pot and alcohol. I’ve been clean now for six years though.

Mum and I weren’t close. It was tough, especially not being able to talk about it; in those days what was done in the home stayed in the home, it stayed within the four walls.

In 1995, I came to Australia for a holiday; I was 23. I went to the Gold Coast and did all the touristy stuff and loved it. I had a couple of cousins who lived in Darwin and they more or less coaxed me over to live. I got a job pretty much straight away at a cafe called The Cool Spot. From there I moved on to working at Woolworths in the fruit and veg department at Casuarina.
I ended up flatting with a couple of guys that I met and that led me to using drugs, the harder stuff. After a year, one of my cousins got me into rehab. He had a racehorse up there and managed to get me work there when I came out of rehab. They were early starts.

I used to jetset a lot. When I left Darwin, I went via road train to Cairns, Port Douglas, Sydney and back to the Sunshine Coast, where I stayed for a few months before moving to Newcastle in 1997. After a year I moved to Sydney and have been here since.

I like working at The Big Issue because it gives me responsibility to get up and go to work. It gives me stability and a way to give back to society. I enjoy meeting and chatting to people. I do suffer from depression and anxiety and it sometimes disables me from going to work, however, working and selling The Big Issue helps pull me out of my dark days. Rejection and depression don’t mix, so when I don’t get many sales it can be hard.

It’s the people who keep bringing me back. Here at The Big Issue it’s like a second family. I now work in the Women’s Subscription Enterprise as well, and have played at the Street Soccer Program. I can be myself here and it has helped me get clean and become an Australian citizen. You also get to do fun stuff and learn new skills. I have had fun completing the City2Surf a few times now. Since I’ve been clean my eyes are more open to my surroundings and I appreciate everything around me and what I’ve got. I have a lot.

Thank you to everyone reading The Big Issue for your support and encouragement to work. Thanks also to the staff as well for their support and caring over the years.

Photo by Peter Holcroft

Interview by Sam Clark