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19 March 2020

Lou

Photo by James Braund

I was born in Melbourne, put into care when I was 18 months old and bounced from home to home until I was 17. If I had stayed with my parents, I don’t think I would have ended up being as messed up. Things happened to me while I was in care that shouldn’t have happened.

I didn’t get treated very well at school. I used to be the clown, get myself in trouble. I hated it. They really should have picked up that I had dyslexia. They just thought I was a troubled kid. I didn’t finish high school – I left halfway through Year 10.

I don’t know most of my family; I only know my sister. She too went into care and we got separated but we later met up in residential care. I remember the day she left again; I wasn’t allowed to say goodbye to her. We’re kind of in touch, but I don’t have much to do with her.

I ended up hitting the drugs. My then-partner introduced me to street work. I started when I was 18 – I did it until I was 31. I gave birth to my daughter when I was 22. She’s 17 now. I couldn’t look after her so I chose to give her up. I was part of her life until about four years ago.

The only job I ever had was working at Maccas, but I hated it. They ended up sacking me because I have a disability in my arm. When I was seven, I was walking along a brick wall and fell in the gutter. I damaged my wrist and my elbow. They put the plaster on too tight and I ended up having about seven operations.

About five years ago I tried to sue Human Services for my arm and for being abused while I was in care. I was going to court but ended up settling – that’s basically when I ended up getting my life together.

My worker at the time told me about The Big Issue. She said there were some openings and asked if I would like to go along. I was working three days later and have been there ever since.

The Women’s Subscription Enterprise has made a big difference. I’m a lot happier. Five years ago, I was just moping around. I drank every day. Now I’ve cut my drinking. I haven’t used drugs for years. I pack the magazine and at Christmas time we pack presents and process letters. It’s my favourite part because I don’t know much about computers, so it gives me a new skill.

I’m telling my story for Angie – she’s like a mother I never had. When I was in care, I had nobody except for her. She used to come and see me once or twice a week, take me to Maccas and the movies. I lost contact with her for 20 years but she got in touch recently. She’s really unwell. That’s my biggest fear – losing her. I couldn’t imagine life without her. I love her.

Interview by Anastasia Safioleas
Lou works in The Big Issue's Women’s Subscription Enterprise, Melbourne.