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26 May 2014


Photograph by Joshua Thies

“I love people. They know me so well. I’ve been out in public collecting for charities since I was 16, nearly 40 years ago. My father used to run the Aid for the Blind association and he got me started in the city. Then, later, I moved to the Commonwealth Bank at Moorooka after I’d lost my sight.

When we were kids, my brother and sister and I had tunnel vision. We went to the blind school, but still rode our bikes. We gradually lost our sight as we grew up. It’s hereditary. There are lots of eye conditions around. I never judge people according to how much they can see or can’t see. If I bump into people, I say sorry, just like a normal person would.

I love people. It doesn’t matter where you come from, if I can understand you, I’ll talk to you. You’ve got to fit in. If you’re nice to people, then they are nice back – it’s a two-way street. I’ve had times when I had to stick up for myself – find ways to express my anger and explain that everyone has their problems. But in the end, friendship is what’s important. I’m still in touch with people I’ve met over the years who’ve helped me along the way.

You have to learn to do things yourself. I was made to be independent. When you are blind you depend on your hearing more. It can take a while, though, to pick up on voices and develop trust. Memory guides you. At Moorooka I know exactly where the post office is, the public toilets, the bus stop…

My family depend on each other, too, for different things. My brother, Arthur [featured in ‘Vendor Profile’, Ed#422] and I depend on each other. He’s braver than me and has a good sense of direction. I’m not saying he’s smarter than me, though! He sells The Big Issue. That’s how I got started. I’ve got into the swing of it now and really enjoy it. It’s for a good cause and people recognise me and stop for a chat.

I’ve had a few jobs over the years. With Meals on Wheels, peeling potatoes…whatever needed to be done. Then there was the Blood Bank, where I met my husband. He was the car park attendant. Easygoing and happy-go-lucky. We are real homebodies, and own our own home. We’re happy being there listening to the radio. It’s been 44 years I’ve lived in that street. Great neighbours including my stepfather, who lives next door.

You know, I love people. I can’t see if they are fat or thin. I can still remember what people and animals and colours look like, everything. I can’t remember the faces of my brothers and sisters, though. It’s been a long time.”


Interview by by Judy Johnson/photograph by Joshua Thies
Julie sells The Big Issue at Albert & Elizabeth sts, Brisbane