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30 November 2018

Gill

Big Issue vendor Gill

MEET YOUR VENDOR

Gill sells The Big Issue in Murray St Mall, Perth

Life has not always worked out the way I may have hoped, but despite this I have always worked hard, loved my family and maintained my generous spirit. I don’t like to think of myself as a victim; rather I am a survivor. I survived trauma in my childhood, and violence as an adult. I survived losing jobs and losing my home. I survived mild damage to my brain and 60-odd years of good times and dark times. These days there is more and more light than dark, and The Big Issue has been a crucial part of things getting better.

Now that I have seen the world, I realise that I had a good upbringing in many ways. I was very lucky to grow up in Floreat. Dad had a steady job in insurance and I was a good student. I had extra responsibility in my teenage years for my younger brother and keeping the household going, as my mum was often terribly depressed. She passed away from an accident when I was 19.

I have always had a caring nature, so it was a natural decision for me to start nursing at Charles Gairdner Hospital after I finished high school. When I was 23, I had a break and spent four-and-a-half months on a working holiday (that was more holiday than work) in Europe. I returned to Australia and became a midwife. For 33 years I worked in midwifery – a vocation that I excelled at.

I adore children, and my passion was working with mothers both in pre-natal and ante-natal care. In 2003, however, everything got too much. A combination of complex PTSD, depression, anxiety, as well as practical obstacles, made it increasingly too difficult to work, and my life went on a totally different path.

Family has always been important to me and my three children – two daughters and a son – sit at the centre of my life. They really are the loves of my life, and they have often been my motivation for moving forward and getting through the dark times. I cannot wait to be a granny.

I heard about The Big Issue from another vendor, Pat, three-and-a-half years ago. We met through St Bartholomew’s House, a homelessness service in Perth. I ended up homeless after moving out of my long-term housing. I had been there for 10 years – but it was a nightmare. I had my furniture stolen and didn’t always feel safe. Fortunately, I never had to sleep rough.

Being a mature woman with mild brain damage and other health concerns makes it near impossible to find work. I have always had a strong work ethic, so not working was really affecting me in a negative way. The Big Issue has really given me purpose again. I get to work the hours I want, on the days I want. I meet so many interesting people and the income has allowed me to purchase the things that help make my house feel like a home. Having a job has helped me feel like a valued part of the community again. I am probably the biggest advocate for people signing up to The Big Issue. My hope for the future is to keep working and to cut down my hours only when my first grandchild arrives!

Photo by Ross Swanborough

Interview by The Big Issue editorial team
Perth