Home  /  The Big Issue Magazine  /  Vendors  /  David LE

8 August 2019

David LE

I was born in Ipoh, Malaysia in 1983. I was the first blind person in the family, so my parents didn’t really know how to handle a blind person or understand what blindness was all about. And the structures in that part of Malaysia were not so friendly for people with a disability, and I was kept at home until I was about 15.

That’s when I was eventually sent to a boarding school that catered for blind students. I totally skipped primary school, but that was fine. I did three months of braille, and five years of secondary. I can speak and read Cantonese, English and Malay. I also spent a lot of time playing and listening to music.

I lived in a hostel right next to the school, leaving when I was 19. It was hard at this time; I did not feel safe. This is one of the main reasons I came to Australia – Australia has better infrastructure for people with disability. In Malaysia, my independence was limited. Plus, Malaysia is hot and humid, which I don’t really like.

I have a sister who lives in Germany, and a lot of my friends were heading overseas to study, which I was interested to do. In 2007, I was accepted into a classical music degree at the University of Adelaide.

I play piano and violin a bit. It was costly; my parents worked hard to send me the money to live and pay the expensive tuition fees. I was – and still am – entirely self-funded. All my income goes on my living expenses.

I graduated in 2010, and played in a band for a bit, as well as a choir and on TV. I started doing charity collecting, but I wanted to do something different. Someone mentioned The Big Issue, so I wandered in to the office in February.

I have really enjoyed it; I go out with no money and come back with money from sales. I enjoy that I can choose my hours, and I like meeting new people.
I live by myself in Norwood, I learned independence while studying my degree. I have a carer once a week, which is good. I can do most things myself, but NDIS provides a cleaning person once a fortnight, which is the thing I need most.

I like to stay happy and positive, and rarely let things get me down no matter how bad they get. I was over the moon when I was granted permanent residency in 2017, and grateful to the thousands of Australians who signed a petition supporting me to stay. And I have applied to become an Australian citizen.

Photo by Craig Arnold

Interview by Erica Rees
David sells The Big Issue at King William and Grenfell Sts in Adelaide, SA.