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20 February 2018



I grew up with my nan, basically. She raised me. I had a rough time at school, with my disabilities and all that. They just picked on me all the time. I finished in Year 10; I'd had enough. After that I basically went out on the streets and got into a lot of trouble.
I worked for a disability workshop in Mount Druitt, NSW, but they found out about my criminal history and that was it. They just said, 'Nup, we can't have you.' I dunno, I can't expect different.

I was homeless in NSW, and getting in trouble with the cops all the time. Being homeless was not nice at all. You go find somewhere to sleep and then a security guard just moves you on. People abuse you and that.

I nearly went to prison, but my dad said to the judge, 'No, I'll move him to Victoria where I can show him the right way.' Even though he's my step-dad he's the one who put me on the right track.

It was scary coming to Melbourne because I didn't have a job and I was just asking my parents for money all the time. But then my dad got me a rescue kitty for my 29th birthday, and he said, 'Look I'm not going to feed it all the time, you go out and find a job.' He's a vendor, so he signed me up for The Big Issue. Ever since then he's been proud.

I've been selling The Big Issue since the 14th of November 2014. When I first came to do my interview on this day I was thinking, Will they accept me for who I am? I've got a criminal record.

I like everything about The Big Issue. It keeps me going. It's shown me what I can do if I've got support. The money makes a big difference. I like all the friendly staff. There are also a lot of regulars I do have, who respect me for what I do. I've told them about my past and they say, 'Well, at least you're trying to change from what you were.'

I want to work so I can look after my cat. Her name's Squishy. She's four years old and I got her from the Lort Smith Animal Hospital. She was stuck in a brick wall, that's how she got the name Squishy; the fire brigade got her out of the wall. She's one of them cats that they thought couldn't be saved, coz she's got a bit of feral in her. Lort Smith contacts me every couple of months to check up and I say, 'She's doing fine. All the feral's gone.'

That's all she wanted, that chance. Like my dad said, it's probably because she realised that I've been treated rough, like she's been treated rough. She just needed a bit of love. That's it.

Once Squishy came along, I just thought: Now I do belong. Now I understand why my dad told me to sign up. Now I've got the support from you guys and from Squishy. Now I can support us both.

This article first appeared in 'Love Summer' edition #552 of The Big Issue.

photo by James Braund

Interview by Katherine Smyrk
Garry sells The Big Issue at Flagstaff Station in Melbourne