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25 March 2013


"I grew up in Queensland. My mum and dad divorced when I was young and they moved me to Adelaide when I was little, about 11 or 12. I went to a school called Townsend House and I lived there in the school’s accommodation. I liked it there – that’s where I learned sign language. 

When I was 15, I left school. I’ve moved around a bit and I’ve done a couple of different jobs since then. I lived in Queensland for a while and I also lived in Sydney before Melbourne. For a while I did woodwork, which I loved. I had another job moving furniture, too, and later I drove a forklift in Port Melbourne.

I’m one of six. I’ve got three brothers and two sisters. I’m not in touch with any of them – none of them lives in Melbourne. My mum died of a heart attack in 1983 and my dad’s an alcoholic – I don’t see him either.

I started off selling The Big Issue in Sydney. A friend, a guy who could hear, told me about it. He was already working there as a vendor. So I started selling it, and the staff could see I was reliable, so I kept going. I’ve always loved this job.

I did that for about five years in Sydney and then I decided to move to Melbourne. The Big Issue people in Sydney rang up the Melbourne people and told them I was coming down. Sydney was okay, but I like Melbourne better. The deaf clubs here are really good and they helped me find accommodation. I’ve got a nice flat – I like where I live.

I like my pitch, too. It can be slow selling in the CBD, so when the opportunity to sell a bit further out came up, I gave it a try and I’ve been selling mainly out in Balaclava ever since. People know me now and I have some regular customers. There’s nothing I don’t like about the job – the only problem is the weather. I have a bad back and the cold really affects it. I don’t like it when it’s raining and when it’s windy, but other than that, it’s good. After this interview I’m going straight out to sell the magazine. It’s 37 degrees, but I’ll just drink a lot of water.

In my free time I watch TV and movies and spend time with my girlfriend, Caroline. Sometimes she gets bored and visits me while I’m selling, too. I met Caroline in the CBD in McDonald’s a few years ago. I saw her signing away, so I just went up and started talking to her. We’ve been together about two-and-a-half years now and she loves me. 

It was 2003 when I started off selling The Big Issue. I’ve been waiting for ages to have my profile in the magazine!"

Interview by by Sophie Quick/photograph by James Braund
Stephen sells The Big Issue in Balaclava and Richmond, Melbourne.