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26 February 2014


Photograph by Andy Rasheed

"I was born at the Queen Victoria Hospital, same place my mum was born. I mainly lived at Elizabeth and Salisbury [northern suburbs of Adelaide]. At school I had [School Services Officers] helping me, because I had a learning disability. My favourite subject was woodwork, and I made a whole heap of stuff: a bookshelf, a chopping board, a spice rack, a coffee table, a dog kennel. Mum’s dog loves that kennel. I went right through and finished Year 12 in 2011. I’ve done two courses, too, last year. A Cert II in Furniture Making and a Cert II in Construction – we learned about mixing concrete, bricklaying…all the labour.

When I first left school, I tried to get jobs, but nothing came of it – Subway, Foodland, shopping centres, mainly. I had one job delivering catalogues, but it didn’t pay much. I’d like a job building, because I like working with my hands. I’m not that strong, but I can lift some heavy stuff. Girls can do this work, too – do the same amount of work as a male.

I heard about The Big Issue through a family friend, Grant [‘Vendor Profile’, Ed#445]. The training is easy to understand, and after I learned about it, I sold everything I had in only a couple of hours.

I come in on the bus, and like to start at 8am and work through till 1pm, to get all the rushes – morning, shoppers, lunchtime. It’s quite fun, and gets me out of the house for a few hours. I only do it four days a week now. My favourite spot is the Adelaide Arcade, though at the moment I can only get it on Thursdays, because other vendors share it, too.

I just hold the magazine up, and people ask me about it and I tell them what The Big Issue is all about. Sometimes they buy it, sometimes they don’t, but at least they get to know the information. I don’t know the customers’ names, but they do like to have a chat if they’ve got time. I’d sell out at Elizabeth if there was a pitch there. I’m trying to save up for my 21st in May, a big party for family and friends. I also buy concert tickets – I’ve seen Backstreet Boys, Dolly Parton…and the musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I buy CDs when I can, too.

At the moment I’m building a guinea-pig cage; I’ve got heaps of stuff to do. I’ve got a belt sander, some basic tools, even a biscuit cutter, but I still want to get a bench planer and a thicknesser. In the next couple of years I hope to get a carpentry apprenticeship, work my way through that and be full time. I’ve done babysitting before, so I’d also consider doing a childcare course.

But I think I’ll be selling The Big Issue for a while yet – I’m told it can take a couple of years to get an apprenticeship. My motto is ‘keep moving forward, don’t let anything hold you back’."

Interview by by Peter Ascot/ photograph Andy Rasheed
Renae sells The Big Issue in the Adelaide CBD