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9 May 2014


Photograph by Andy Rasheed (eyefood.com.au)


"I lived in Port Pirie [South Australia] most of my life. It was a pretty small town and it’s been done up now. Saw it on a trip to Port Lincoln recently and couldn’t believe how much it’s changed; they’ve cleaned it up and put new shops in.

Pirie was very dirty, with smoke coming from the lead smelters. I did suffer from the lead. I had difficulty reading and writing, but I’m starting to read a lot better now. I can get a novel and spell out the words, read it. My writing is getting a lot better, too, and I do ‘Streetsheet’ [p7] submissions and have them published in the magazine.

I’m the oldest, with two sisters and a brother who is autistic – he’s had to go into foster care. We all moved down to Adelaide when I was 19; it was getting too much up in Pirie with the health hazards. When I got to Adelaide I had that much lead in my blood I needed a full replacement transfusion. I think I’m lucky to be alive. My sister was expecting triplets but she lost them.

At school I liked woodwork and electronics. We soldered circuit boards for computers. I worked at [disability enterprise] Orana in Pirie, making wine racks and storage boxes, using those skills. Also did sanding and spray-painting.

I found out about The Big Issue from my mate Mark M back in 2008. After I started selling, I met a girl at the bowling alley. We were together for a year and I treated her like a princess, but she died suddenly one night. She’d had some heart surgery, but I still don’t know what caused her death.

I decided to take a year off to recover in my own way, but later I came back to The Big Issue. Since I’ve been back I’ve had lots of customers and non-stop good remarks.

I’m down on Rundle Street at Artisan Bakery and Cafe. I do weekdays except Thursdays, which is when I do bowling. If I work too much, it wears me out. Sometimes I’ll work weekends, too, at city pitches.

I’m a good sportsman (mostly Aussie Rules and bowling) and I got to go to Sydney last Australia Day to play in the Big Issue Street Football Festival. Next season I’ll play for Salisbury Aussie rules club in the C7s, which is a league for people with disabilities. I’m nearly 30, but I’ve got plenty more footy left in me. I’ll keep going till I’m 45: nothing will stop me!

My daughter is five. I get along with her mum now, who brought her to see me last night at bowling. Had a lovely time. I’m putting money away for a tattoo of my daughter’s name.

I was in a group called Our Voice, a committee of people with disabilities. We went to Canberra and Perth for conferences. The idea was to speak for people with disabilities rather than having their carers speaking up for them.

I’d like to say thank you to my customers for all the generosity. Also to the great people at Artisan."

Interview by by Peter Ascot/ photograph by Andy Rasheed
Ricky sells The Big Issue in Rundle St, Adelaide