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30 September 2014


I was born with spina bifida and spent my first year of life in Princess Margaret Hospital [Perth]. My family moved north to Carnarvon when I was one. Dad is a plumber and he opened up a new business up there. I lived in Carnarvon with my two brothers. But then, when I was about eight, Mum and Dad split up and Mum decided to move back to her family in Perth.

My schooldays were not a happy time for me; in fact, I hated school. I was really rebellious and did not do well. I am very close to my uncle and aunt who were teachers at the local high school, and when they moved away just before I started Year 8, I really missed them and my schoolwork suffered. I left school in Year 11 but I did go to TAFE to finish Year 12, and I enjoyed that more.

After a major family argument, I left Carnarvon with my younger brother to live with Mum in Perth. I got a job through Rocky Bay [an employment agency for people living with a disability]. The job was working in an office for a security company, but I loathed being behind a desk all day and eventually left.

I found a new job selling ‘Magic Pens’ at Fremantle Markets. I really like the people there and I did a few jobs around the markets. I sold musical instruments, airbrush tattoos and my favourite job was stocktaking for one of the clothing stalls. I also worked with a band for a while, doing their promotions.

It was when I was working at the markets that I met Sarah, who is a Big Issue vendor. She wanted me to give The Big Issue a go, but I said no. She did not give up, though, and kept asking me. About a year later I signed up.

My first customers were friends at the markets, but then I soon got the hang of selling on the streets. I am doing really well now and the other vendors really help me – especially Frank, who showed me the ropes in the city. Cheers, Frank!

I am an official volunteer with the Chevron City to Surf for Activ fun run, and have recently been given the responsibility of running the lost-kids help-desk pavilion.

Selling The Big Issue is a major financial help to me, especially around Christmas and my birthday when the extra cash is really good. I have a few shops, businesses and cafes who buy from me regularly, and The Big Issue office is helping me to get more businesses to sell to, so I can have a delivery run every time a new magazine comes out.

I am a bit artistic and I like to draw and write, but I have not done any for a while. I am in the process of writing a ‘bucket list’ – so who knows what the future holds?

interview by Jim Petrie photograph by Ross Swanborough

Interview by Jim Petrie
Rikki sells The Big Issue on Murray St, Perth