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9 July 2019

Donna

If you were to ask a friend to describe me, they would probably say I’m loud, outgoing, stubborn, generous and (mostly) happy! These qualities have got me through difficult moments that life throws at you, and these qualities make me good at my job. Life isn’t always easy, but I am lucky. I have six beautiful kids, a job I love and a roof over my head.

I like to do things early – I finished school early, left home at 12, was pregnant with my first child at 15 and gave birth to a baby boy six weeks early out the front of Fremantle Hospital. Before I was pregnant, I was partying hard, couch surfing, busy being young and stupid. It was both fun and lonely at times, but I was way too stubborn to head home. Once I was pregnant, family services helped me get my own place and things started to calm down.

My son was two when his dad took him to New Zealand without me. I was heartbroken, and it all fell apart quickly. I was using drugs, I let go of life and had nothing to care about, including myself. It wasn’t until I had my next son when I was 23 that things changed. I was a mum again and had to start being responsible. It replaced the emptiness. Then four more came over eight years. Me and Charlie still live together raising our five kids.

I’m not going to lie, things have not always been easy; there was on-again off-again drug and alcohol use. None of it fixes your problems, it just helps you hide from them. It has been eight years since I’ve been off the drugs. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the kids, I would be a wreck. They give me strength and purpose, and have taught me how to love unconditionally. I know we are meant to teach kids about life and the world – but they have taught me more than I could have imagined.

My partner Charlie was selling The Big Issue and he got me into it two years ago. My first day I was shy and quiet. It took a while to find my voice, but I have always been a people person. I just like to make people laugh, have a chat and meet new and interesting people. I am happy when I am at work, and I want to thank my regulars for supporting me. I learned that the best way to make sales was by being myself (and by using my very loud voice). Customers come past me and tell me they can hear me up the street and they like to quote my lines! I tell everyone “have a nice day” because if I say it to one person, I have to say it to everyone so that no-one feels left out!

I get along with other vendors and have made friends. I make enough for the kids and myself to get by and a bit more. Once the kids buy the stuff they want, the money goes pretty quickly! When I think about the future, all I really want is to have a happy life. I would love to get all my kids passports and travel overseas. Really and truly though, as long as my kids are doing well, then I’m happy.

Photo by Ross Swanborough

Interview by Andrew Joske
DONNA SELLS THE BIG ISSUE OUTSIDE DAVID JONES, MURRAY ST MALL, PERTH.