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20 September 2018

Charlie

Charlie

Charlie sells The Big Issue on St Georges Terrace, Perth.

I was brought up in Midvale, WA. I had a happy childhood and loved playing footy. Death and grief, however, have had a big impact on my life. When I was 10 my youngest brother drowned; he was only five years old. Soon after, my family moved to the country. I ended up going to three different high schools and was bullied in each. That’s when I took up boxing to deal with it.

My parents separated when I was about 15. I was an angry teenager and always got into fights. I just didn’t get along with my family so I walked out to live on the city streets. I liked the independence, but I kept getting into trouble with the cops, and I ended up being in and out of juvenile detention.

When I was 20 I met a girl and we had a child. Holding my son for the first time was the best feeling I’ve ever had. It changed my life. I got off the streets and got a baker’s apprenticeship. I separated from my partner.

I settled down with a new partner and had two sons. My oldest spent time with us and my aunty. But we broke up and the next couple of years became a fight for access to all three of my sons.

During this time, I worked with kids at a drop-in centre as a youth worker, and bought my own house. I also spent time travelling around Australia. Sadly, my dad, my best friend, was sick with a brain tumour. He passed away a few days after I got to tell him I loved him.

When my oldest was 17, we were able to reconnect, and we started to get closer. One week from his 18th birthday, I came home and I found my son had taken his own life. It was my worst nightmare. For so long I cried from first thing in the morning until I fell asleep at night. I felt so lost. For years I kept expecting him to come around the corner, my tears flowed. I lost my house; I stopped caring and lost my love for everyone.

Five months later, my next son was born with my new partner. She had two kids already, and we had another daughter and son. After we separated, I ended up single parenting all five kids. The fights, the mess, the dobbing, the games, the disciplining, getting them to school each day, keeping them fed, tucking them into bed, paying the bills, chasing after them is all worth it when my kids tell me that they love me, and I say it straight back. It’s easily the hardest job in the world, but I love it!

The Big Issue is important to me because I love to come into the city to see my customers. When I first started, the money helped me to keep a stable home for my kids, as all my other income was going on rent. Now, I am saving the money for my online counselling course. My dream is to become a grief counsellor to parents who have lost a child. It’s something I want to pour all my love and heart into because I know it is the hardest thing in the world to get over.

Selling The Big Issue reminds me that there is good in the world, filled with kind and generous people. It’s taken me 10 years to realise this. I want to thank all my customers, and everyone else that stops for a chat. You’ve helped me to open my heart again, see the world more positively, and have given me the ability to keep my five beautiful kids happy, healthy and well cared for.

Photo by Ross Swanborough

Interview by  Editorial
Perth