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20 June 2014


Photograph by Peter Holcroft

"I don’t really have any ambitions – maybe that’s a problem! I want to be the best person I can be, but not an annoying, self-righteous bastard. My attitude has improved since my last profile, back in 2005 (Ed#228).

My dad died from cancer, but I keep in touch with my mum in Queensland. I’ve got a sister in Queensland and one in Tasmania, too.

My father was a stationmaster on NSW Railways  when I was a kid and we kept travelling around the state.  I always found it easier to make enemies than friends, and I got kicked out of school in Year 9 – and out of home at the same time. I started off really bad, but I’ve improved.

Years ago, I was begging. A Big Issue vendor, ‘Cockatoo Phil’, came up and asked if I wanted a job.  I signed up in April 2004 so I’m in my 11th year now,  a long time for me to have had any job.

I’m at the corner of Castlereagh and Park streets, from 7 or 7.30 till about 10 each morning. I try for five days a week, but I’m agoraphobic and some days I’m incapable of dealing with the public. It’s the fear of open spaces and strange people. I think people are the strangest thing on the planet!

I’ve met some nice ones, though, thanks to selling the magazine. They get to stop and chat. One gave me tickets to ‘Acca Dacca’ [AC/DC], two tickets to the mosh pit on the Black Ice tour in 2010. I like any song by Bon Scott, but being born in 1979, I’m too young to have actually seen him.

I used to sleep out the back of a bank, but things are better now. I got a Department of Housing place in May 2011, and I’ve been able to get an Xbox and a laptop. Houso put me near Central [Station], because it was close to the city so I could do The Big Issue. I walk in; takes me half an hour.

I got my electricity bill, which showed that they owe me $125 at the moment, because I pay in advance and use less. Every year at Christmas I can ask for a refund, and get some cash.

I was doing my HSC, but I’ve put it off because it was chewing up too much selling time and I needed more sales. I’m looking at redoing it, but I’ll have to wait a while.

I am very grateful that I have met so many nice and interesting people in the time that I have been selling, and I hope we can continue that relationship.

The nice lady that gave me the tickets to Acca Dacca worked for ACP [Australian Consolidated Press] – in the magazine business, like me! I’ve got dentists who have helped me for free, too. ‘I’ve just had a cancellation, come up right now and I’ll fix up some more of your teeth’. Right near my pitch. I think of myself as lucky, and that was an example of how good people can be. “


Interview by by Peter Ascot/ photograph by Peter Holcroft
John sells The Big Issue on the corner of Castlereagh & Park Streets, Sydney.