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27 June 2019

Peter T

Photo by Sean Davey

Before I was married, I was in Sydney and fell on hard times. I had come over from New Zealand but after six months had run out of money. I was in a new country, I was on my own and I had no support.

Tough times. I found a Big Issue vendor on the street and asked, ‘What do I do to get involved? I need some cash.’ This was nine years ago. I’ve been selling The Big Issue on and off since.

Home in New Zealand was Wellington. I haven’t been back. I probably won’t go back. I have family but they don’t speak to me. I have a 19-year-old son and I’ve tried to open the lines of communication but it’s not working so I’ve given up. I guess I have a life here. I’m an Australian now. It’s sad, New Zealand is a nice country but there’s nothing there for me.

My childhood was pretty tough. It was just Mum, my brother and I. My father had absolutely nothing to do with us, he couldn’t care less. We were very poor. I left school in the fourth form and started pushing trolleys to make money. School was awful. I only found out I was dyslexic when I was 40. Mum didn’t know and the schools back then didn’t acknowledge people with disabilities. I struggled with dyslexia, depression, low self-esteem… I still struggle with it, but you have to put one foot in front of the other, you’ve got to keep going.

I did a lot of retail before The Big Issue. I’m a people person. I can talk to people, I know how to handle cash, I know how to build a rapport. That’s why I’m good at selling The Big Issue, it comes naturally to me.

My wife Genice and I have been married for three years. We sell The Big Issue together. Selling in regional NSW is hard. We’ve spent the last 18 months building up a really good customer base here, educating our customers about what The Big Issue is.

The other thing that we do is The Big Issue Classroom. That’s another way of educating the community about what The Big Issue is. It’s a lot of hard work but we do enjoy it. It’s a bit of a balancing act. Fifty per cent of our income goes to rent. It’s a lot of money. I promised Genice we might be able to save and go for a bit of a road trip.

We’re big Lego fans. I must admit that we do spend a little bit of money buying Lego but it’s our passion. The biggest thing I’ve built is the Marvel Agents of Shield Helicarrier. It has about 3000 pieces. I had put it on lay-by, took me about six months to pay it off. And I want to get the big Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. It’s huge, about 7000 pieces. It’s awesome but it costs a lot of money. But you get what you can get…but only if you’re patient.

Photo by Sean Davey

Interview by Anastasia Safioleas
Peter sells The Big Issue in Queanbeyan, NSW.