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3 April 2019


Vendor Jackie

I grew up in England with my dad and step-mum. My mum took off when I was a baby and it felt pretty hard sometimes, not having my real mum.

I liked my school in the UK, though. I loved being with my friends, and I always liked learning new things, like doing experiments in science and learning French.

The day after my 15th birthday – just before we moved to Australia – I was hit by a car. That changed a lot of things for me. I spent three months in hospital with two broken legs and a dislocated shoulder. I still have really bad hip problems and arthritis from the accident, and I had a knee reconstruction a couple of years ago. It makes it hard to do a lot of jobs, so I’m lucky I have The Big Issue. Having a chat and selling the magazine is a really good job for me.

Life got a bit complicated when we moved to Australia. School felt really different, and I felt like the black sheep in my family. Not because I got into trouble, but because I didn’t feel like I fit in very well. I left home when I was 16 and moved around a lot, staying on people’s couches and in hostels – whatever I could find.

I met my boyfriend when I was 17 and was pregnant by 18. We had four babies in five years. Becoming a mum was so challenging – I didn’t even know how to change a nappy when my first little girl was born – but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I went on to have four more kids with another partner, so I have eight kids – five girls and three boys.

Sadly, I lost one of my daughters when she was only five weeks old. That was one of the hardest times of my life, and I hid a lot of my pain by drinking. The grief does get easier with time, and now I feel like my little girl is in safe hands with the guardian angels. 

My kids haven’t always been able to live with me. Domestic violence meant it wasn’t always safe, and the kids were seeing things they shouldn’t see. I spent 18 months living in a women’s refuge, then 10 months in transitional housing.

It was hard, but I got to have counselling and the staff were wonderful. The people in the refuge, plus selling The Big Issue, gave me back my self-esteem. I’m very grateful for that.

There’ve been tough times in my life, but I’m so grateful for all the good things I have now – people who love me, gorgeous grandkids and a job I love doing. I have a roof over my head and I get to live in a peaceful home now.

Some of my favourite time is spent with my two little grandkids. I stay with my daughter during the week so I can drop them to and from school, which I love. It’s so good The Big Issue gives me the flexibility to do that.

Photo by Ross Swanborough

Interview by Pia Bonifant
Jackie Sells The Big Issue at Myer Bridge, Perth.