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15 May 2019

Margaret

I grew up in Geelong with my family, and when I was about 18 I moved to Melbourne. I worked in offices doing temp work; you had to have good typing skills, good language ability and be able to spell well.

When I first came to The Big Issue I’d been working in offices for about nine years and I had a nervous breakdown. I was never homeless as such, or living on the street or anything like that. I was looking for a full-time office job and something told me, it’s not going to happen for you now; you’ve had eight years doing what you are doing and it’s time for a change. I was going to the post office to pay a bill, and when I came out there was a vendor outside selling the magazine, so I stopped to buy a magazine and had a bit of chat. He said, “Why don’t you try and work for The Big Issue?” I started work a week later. It was really good, and I was looked after by the staff.

I was a vendor from 1998 to 2010. I found it hard to begin with, selling a magazine on the street, but then I managed to make up a spiel and get something going. It worked out quite well and I got a lot of regulars, so I got to know quite a few people by their first names.

In summer, I went down to the beach. I’d work in the afternoon till 5 o’clock and then I’d go to the beach have a swim and a bit of a sunbathe, come back into the city and start working again from 7.20pm to about 9.30pm. By the end I wasn’t interested in working in extreme heat or cold anymore. So [vendor support worker] Gemma suggested I get involved with the Women’s Subscription Enterprise. The change was quite welcome.

Now I’m working with a team of women. Having a rapport and getting on well with them is important. Working as a team professionally with a bunch of women who know each other as friends – it’s really good and I’ve built some friendships, which is really encouraging. The boss encourages us to talk among ourselves as we work because some of the work is quite monotonous. And the money of course, that’s really good too.

After work I like to go running. I’m also quite an avid television watcher and I like movies. I like comedy and romance. Thrillers at times. I like love stories. My favourite movie is Titanic. And I like Love Actually.
I’ve started seeing someone I met when I was 17, and I was in love with him. I hadn’t heard from him for ages, but I knew he was here because I kept having dreams about him. A mutual friend told me he was back in Melbourne, and single. I thought “wow”, so we reconnected.

I’d like to stay with the Women’s Subscription Enterprise. It’s good just to have regular money that I can put aside and save for different things, and to use for taxis and my medical expenses. I have some health issues I need to take care of. I have a number of friends and acquaintances at The Big Issue and feel like I have a community; it’s been really good.

Interview by Katherine Smyrk
Photo by James Braund

Interview by Katherine Smyrk
Melbourne