15 December 2016

Steve, Brisbane

Jacob Pedersen

I GREW UP in Newcastle and spent a couple of years living on the streets, which was a bit rough. Things were different back then, you had to fend for yourself – there wasn’t much help available.

I came to Queensland for a fruit-picking job 25 years ago, which I did for about six months before moving to Brisbane. In thattime I’ve had a lot of part-time jobs: lawn mowing and gardening, working as a kitchen hand…too many to name. Now I’m selling The Big Issue! I first heard about the magazine from my friend, who’s also a vendor. He’d been selling the magazine for a while and seemed to be enjoying himself, so I thought, “Why not?”

I’ve always been a little bit shy, and needed some help with my confidence, so the magazine sounded perfect. At first I found being a vendor a bit intimidating – I’ve never liked big crowds – but I’m starting to feel more comfortable and I’m getting used to it now. Being among people every day definitely helps with the other parts of my life. My confidence has definitely grown, and now I’m happy to talk to people and make conversation. Getting out to sell the magazine now feels like any other
regular day, and the other vendors and staff are really supportive.

I’ve started getting some regular customers, who are always really friendly and often stop by for a chat. A few regular customers have moved out of Brisbane; I miss them sometimes. But there are always new people coming through to talk to. 

I still have lots of family in NSW and we’ve always been close, so I try to visit whenever I can to see all of my nieces and nephews. There are so many of them now I’ve almost lost count!

Since coming to Queensland I’ve worked hard to educate myself and get training. I’ve got a Certificate III in Nursing, and have qualifications in painting and decorating, fabrication and sheet metal. I’d love to work in nursing sometime in the future, but haven’t had many opportunities so far. 

When I’m not selling The Big Issue I generally lead a quiet life. I listen to music from the 70s, or watch rugby league or AFL. I live in a share house with a lot of other people, which can be daunting sometimes, but we all get along pretty well. A few
times I’ve rented apartments by myself, but it was rarely just me there – I always used to find other people who were living on the streets and invite them in as boarders, or just give them a place
to stay for a while.

I generally look at life as a challenge, but do my best to give back to the world. I’ve learned that there are no barriers I can’t overcome, even my disabilities. My advice to people would be that even if sometimes there are obstacles in your way, it can’t hurt to give things a go. You never know what the day’s going to bring. 

I’d like to thank all the people who buy the magazine for their support, especially my customers who sponsored me in a fun run this year to help raise money for The Big Issue office. It was good to get out there and mingle, and see all of the teams from different charities. It’s not something I
ever thought I’d do, but it ended up being so much fun!

This article was first published in Ed#524 of The Big Issue.

Interview by Kurt Maroske
Steve sells The Big Issue at the corner of Albert and Elizabeth Streets