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24 April 2014


Photograph by Emma Dryden

“I was born in Coffs Harbour [NSW]. I don’t look like I have a disability, but I have a rare syndrome that has left me with a speech and language problem and learning difficulties. Also a small hole in my heart. Sometimes it’s hard for me to get enough oxygen in my lungs, particularly on a hot day.

I left home when I was 13, because of stuff that happened to me. I won’t go into details because I don’t want my customers to feel sorry for me, but I was angry about it. I was homeless on the streets when I was 15, 16.

I ended up in Canberra. But I get bored of the one place after two or three years, so I went down to Melbourne. That was before I started selling The Big Issue: I didn’t know about it then. Somebody told me about it later, in 2007. In 2010, I went to Brisbane for six months. But I got stuffed around and ripped off in [a] boarding house there, so I left. The place was supposed to provide food but it was so bad I had to get takeaway on top of the meals. I sold The Big Issue up in Brisbane for a while, but it was a bit slow for me.

Now I’m back in Canberra. I sell The Big Issue four to six hours a day, at Woden, in the city at the post office, and also at Belconnen now and again. I used to do Belconnen 364 days a year. To all my customers: if you don’t see me one fortnight, support another vendor. I’ll be selling for a while yet, so you’ll be able to buy the following edition from me.

I’ve been living in Turner since the beginning of 2011. I live in a place where I have to share the kitchen and bathroom, but it’s a short walk to the city. I don’t like cooking, and I do eat a lot of junk food. I work seven days a week and use up all the energy.

In the last year I’ve been trying to fix up my life. The first thing I had to do was stop gambling. I used to gamble all the time, and I lost too much money over the years. Clubs, casino, TAB, anything… If you have a gambling problem, it is difficult to stop [entirely] straightaway. So the thing to do is to take it slowly the first year, and then give it up.

I’ve gambled once this year – took the bus to the casino in Sydney and lost a bit. I wanted to get away from things where I am living. I’m waiting for a place of my own through ACT Housing. One of these days…

Now I save that money and reward myself with things. If I don’t gamble for a few weeks, I’ll get something – like a tablet computer or clothes. If I gamble, I won’t get it.

I hope to get some sales work for a company, but in general things are going pretty well. I was selling with ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher in February [as part of a Big Issue media campaign] during International Street Vendor Week. I’m a lot happier and less fussed by stuff now, because I’m keeping my gambling under control. I’m not thinking about it all the time, like I used to.”

Interview by by Peter Ascot/ photograph by Emma Dryden
Grant sells The Big issue in Woden and Civic, Canberra.