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17 August 2020

Peter H

Photo by Barry Street

I was born and bred in Sydney near Paddington but moved around a fair bit with my parents. I’ve got a brother who is two years older than me and a sister who is seven years younger than me. I’m the middle child, unfortunately! We moved to Newcastle when I was five and then to a country town called Inverell in northern New South Wales. Then we moved to Queensland. I’ve moved around a fair bit.

My childhood was pretty interesting I reckon. I got to do things others never got the chance to do. I left school at the end of Year 8 and got a job straightaway. I hated school; it was really hard for me. I’ve got a learning disability and had trouble keeping up with everybody in class. Moving around didn’t help – I went to three different schools.

I did wood carting in winter and then worked in a sheltered workshop. I was there for nearly 20 years. I also did volunteer work as a firefighter and had my own radio program at a community radio station. A cousin worked there so I went in a few times to see how it worked. One night he let me do his show for an hour. I just loved it. After that, I had my own program. I did a request show, sometimes a quiz. It was fun.

I was married for four-and-a-half years and I’ve got two boys. Both are in high school. Unfortunately, I don’t get to see them. It’s a bit of a long story but the last time I got to spend time with them was at Christmas at my sister’s house on the Gold Coast. I spent the week with them; it was really lovely.

A vendor I used to be good friends with got me into The Big Issue. I’ve got a bunged-up shoulder and can’t do any physical work, so I thought I’d give The Big Issue a go. This was about two years ago. One day I didn’t have money to get to my regular pitch in the city so I rang The Big Issue office and asked if I could sell down in Redcliffe instead. That’s my pitch now. I love it. Everyone knows who I am. It’s a lovely spot. I look right out over the ocean – I call it my office – and the community there is really friendly. I’ve even had a few English tourists come up to me and say they haven’t seen a Big Issue since they left England. I had a really interesting conversation with one because he used to be a vendor over in England.

The money I make from selling The Big Issue has helped me a lot. I can buy stuff and I can go out for dinner. And I’m hoping to save up to get myself a car or a scooter so I can get around. But the biggest thing I’m trying to save up for is a cruise around Australia. But I might need to wait a while for that…

I haven’t really thought about the future. I’ll stick to selling The Big Issue and see what happens. I just take it day by day. Anything could happen tomorrow, if you know what I mean. I just go with the flow.

Interview by Anastasia Safioleas
Peter sells The Big Issue at Bee Gees Way in Redcliffe, Brisbane