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4 August 2017

Mark L

Photograph by Nathan Brayshaw

Mark L sells at James and Connor Sts, Burleigh Heads.

I’m the luckiest vendor in Australia to be selling on the Gold Coast. Burleigh [Heads] is such a beautiful place. The church I attend here is called the Village Church, and it’s a good name for the type of community we have. People stop to talk, and nobody ever seems to be in a rush or too busy.

I haven’t always felt so lucky. When I started selling The Big Issue I was living in a Salvation Army hostel, and there have been times when I was homeless or living in my car. Living in a car isn’t a very glamourous life, but let me tell you it’s like Buckingham Palace compared to living in a swag or sleeping on the beach. I have housing now, and it makes me feel so thankful for all the progress that I’ve made.

I was born in Melbourne, and have been moving back and forth between Victoria and the Gold Coast since about 1980. I guess you could say I had a pretty privileged upbringing – we weren’t rich or anything but I went to a private school and we were well looked-after. After school, my first job was as an apprentice cabinet-maker. I spent some time after that working in my family’s panel shop, but substance abuse meant I really couldn’t ever maintain a proper job. 

Drinking has been something I’ve struggled with my entire life, up until earlier this year. I hid myself away for a lot of my life. I don’t ever want to go back to drinking. Addiction and mental illness have had such an impact on my life, wreaked so much havoc, but I’m thankful to be in a better place now. My life has turned around so quickly, so dramatically. I came from a place where I genuinely hated myself. And when you hate yourself it’s almost impossible to like anyone or anything else. These days I’m just living a godly life. It’s a daily battle though, it’s still a struggle, but I don’t ever want to go back to all of that.

That’s why I really love selling The Big Issue. It gets me out of the house, out of my head, and gives me something to focus on. It motivates me, you know? It helps me to get out of bed and gives me some purpose for the day.

I find selling The Big Issue is my job and my social life all rolled into one. As soon as I get down to my spot I can have someone just talk to me about the weather, really simple little human interactions, and it puts a smile on my face. It always makes me feel appreciated. These days I get home and look forward to my next day out selling the magazine. I’ve started to love my life again.

This aritcle first appeared in Ed#542 of The Big Issue.

Interview by Kurt Maroske
Gold Coast