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21 November 2012


"When the doctors told my mum her baby probably wouldn’t walk or talk, she didn’t know that I was going to prove them wrong. She had German measles when she was pregnant with me, and even though I had epilepsy as a kid I grew up able to do most things. Mum told me I had coaching from a lot of people and that got me through. Luckily I grew out of the epilepsy by the time I was a teenager.

The next thing was getting diagnosed with dyslexia. It was actually a relief to know. The specialists at social security thought I was faking it, but I knew I wasn’t. I was really good at maths at school. I used to find the maths teachers’ mistakes, when they hadn’t carried over properly. That got them annoyed. I ended up leaving school at 14 anyhow.

I worked on dairy farms, up early with the sun, until I had the accident. I was cleaning a big metal cow grid when the backhoe my stepdad was holding dropped on my leg. Broke it, should have killed me! We fought over that. I blamed him, so I left and moved back in with Dad. He was a truckie, handyman, jack of all trades and a master of a couple. I’m a bit the same – odd jobs, mowing, handyman, carpentry.

I travel a lot between Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Townsville. Don’t like staying in one place for too long. But I’m starting to settle down. It’s hard being on the streets – it gets cold. I wouldn’t recommend it. I’m in a boarding house now. It’s not easy; the people can get aggressive. I keep to myself. I’m a bit of a loner, but I wish I wasn’t. I’d like to meet more people.

I was shy when I started 18 months ago, but The Big Issue staff boost me up and give me a hand. I’d like to thank my customers, too, for their loyalty.

Lately a lot of my regulars have been laid off and I’m feeling the pinch. You get a bit fed up when it’s slow. My goal is to sell 300 magazines in one week. With Christmas coming up I might just do it. Last year I used the extra Christmas money to pay off my bike.

My ultimate goal is to be a triathlete. I was inspired watching them on the Olympics; they’re super athletes. I’ve starting training. It requires extreme fitness and a lot of discipline.
I’ve got to learn to pace myself – I’m a bit like a bull at a gate with the running.

Cycling is my best. I’ve been doing about a 120km a week on my bike, which weighs 9 kilos. The one I want is $12,000 and only weighs 6.3 kilos – I’ll have to look for sponsors.

I’m aiming for the Noosa Triathlon next year. Not bad for a kid no one thought would walk!"

Interview by Judy Johnson/ Photograph by Joshua Thies
Gary sells The Big Issue at Queens Plaza, Adelaide St, Brisbane.