1 May 2017

Shane D, Perth

Photograph by Ross Swanborough

I’m not sure how many vendors have sold The Big Issue in all of the major cities in Australia, but since I started selling in Adelaide in 2002, I have also sold in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. The Big Issue has been a major part of my life for the past 14 years. I suppose you could call me Mr Big Issue!

I was born and bred in Perth and grew up north of the river in Koondoola. I am the oldest of three siblings – two boys and a girl. Over the years all three of us have sold The Big Issue. Growing up was pretty tough, as my dad was an alcoholic and a violent man. He was abusive to my mother and all us kids; as the oldest I sometimes bore the worst of it. To this day, the beatings and the violence continue to haunt me. I have trouble processing my emotions and feelings, and struggle to get words out sometimes. My dad died in 1999, and my mother lives south of Perth with my daughter. I think my dad did a lot of damage to all of us.

I enjoyed school and completed Year 11 at Mercy Catholic College. I would have liked to continue with my education, but it wasn’t possible because Dad’s alcoholism meant my family couldn’t afford it.
When I finished school, I moved south to Busselton and stayed with my grandparents. I got my first job at a supermarket – my aunty used to call me a check-out chap! I immediately preferred living in the country, I find the people friendlier and more hospitable, and I like the relaxed vibe. I am a city boy who turned country. Now I live in Mandurah, where I sometimes sell magazines, but usually I travel up to the city.

I was married in my twenties, and have had one relationship other than that. When I was selling The Big Issue in Brisbane I was staying at a homeless hostel. One night I decided that it wasn’t working for me, so I left. That was the night I met the mother of my daughter, who was living rough at the time. We walked through the night and ended up in a relationship. I introduced her to The Big Issue and she started selling the magazine as well. We moved to Perth when she was pregnant.

My daughter is now nine years old. I only get to see her monthly, but I am working towards changing this. It’s a long road ahead and I am working at being a better dad. I am part of a Supporting Dads group run by Relationships Australia, and they are helping me on my journey. I love my daughter and I am happy she is safe living with my mother.

Working as a vendor has allowed me to travel Australia and I have met all kinds of interesting people. Most people out there are pretty good and mean well. Each city has its own personality. In Adelaide and Perth you have to be patient and let the sales come to you. Brisbane has a relaxed vibe, while in Melbourne and Sydney you have to spruik to get noticed. The income has really helped me over the years. Not only as I have travelled, but it has always given me enough to get by. It also gets me out of the house and stops me getting depressed and allowing those negative thoughts to creep in. Selling The Big Issue makes me a more positive person. 

This article first appeared in Ed#527 of The Big Issue.

Interview by Andrew Joske
Shane D sells The Big Issue at various locations around Perth.