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20 February 2019

David H

Vendor David H

David sells The Big Issue in Melbourne.

I was born in Mildura, and I was seven years old when I went to boarding school. I liked school, but it wasn’t easy being far away from my family. For the first two years, I would go home every third weekend.

Then I would get up early in the morning, catch the plane from Mildura to Melbourne, and once I got to Tullamarine, it was another 40km out to school. After that, the principal made arrangements for me to go home more often.

Back in those days there wasn’t the support there is today; there was the thought going around that the “normal” schools couldn’t educate people with disabilities. Unfortunately, there’s stigma with blindness. Yes, we are limited in what we can do, but we’re not stupid and we’re still willing to try different things.

I have a brother and a sister, but my real brothers and sisters were the ones I went to boarding school with, at the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind (RVIB) out in Burwood. I’ve still got a lot of good friends who I went to school with.

When I turned 18 I went to work. The RVIB had a factory; one of the major products they did was making doormats. I was one of the last original mat makers; they closed that part of it down in 1990. I was there for just under 20 years.

Then I got married and had a son. My wife had cerebral palsy, and I didn’t realise how much work I would have to do. She didn’t have much support and relied a lot on me. We moved down the coast to Warrnambool. My parents were looking after our son and my wife wanted to be closer to him.

I gave up a full-time job and there was nothing in Warrnambool for me to do. If  you’re a visually-impaired person, there’s very limited opportunity in country areas. It’s particularly sad. We were in Warrnambool for 10-and-a-half years, married for almost 15. And then I had to say goodbye. 

About a year after I moved back to Melbourne I found out about The Big Issue, and it’s something I really look forward to doing. Sometimes people say, Oh I’ll just give you a donation. A donation may help, but it’s not selling a mag. The magazine does not just happen. And we’re not all homeless. We are not out there begging. We’re working. I feel very strongly about this. I might take it too seriously, but we go out to work, we own the fact that we’re doing it.

I have a second job, in a workshop. It keeps me busy. I also like football – I follow the NRL, Melbourne Storm, and in the AFL, Hawthorn. I used to play blind cricket.

The Big Issue gets me out of the house; that’s important. It’s also a chance to go out and meet people. Apart from school days, I’ve really never had a circle of friends. The money I earned through The Big Issue allowed me to fly to Canberra to see my son get married in July last year. I got a bit teary eyed, yeah.

Photo by James Braund

Interview by Katherine Smyrk
David sells The Big Issue at Bourke St Mall, Melbourne