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20 September 2018

Susie

Susie

Susie works for WSE in Perth.

I’ve had some tough times over the years, but recently everything has started to come together, and my future is looking brighter than ever.

I had a happy childhood in New Zealand with my parents and two sisters. I moved over to Australia with my hubby 35 years ago.

I had two children, a boy and a girl. It was an incredibly tough time. I was the victim of domestic violence, and had to deal with all the emotional and physical stuff that goes along with it. I was able to eventually step out of the abusive relationship and had to raise my kids on my own.

It was not made any easier because I had undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Back then mental illness was still incredibly stigmatised, and it was not easy to seek help. This made it even harder on myself and on my children.

The combination of family breakdown and mental illness led me to being homeless for five years. I was living in my van most of the time, trying to stay safe and strong. So many things happened over this time, including getting sexually assaulted when I was trying to sleep. It is hard to imagine this time without the incredible support I received from organisations like Ruah and Homeless Healthcare. I don’t think I would be alive if it weren’t for my counsellor Lisa – she pulled me through the dark times.

I have always had the companionship of dogs, which has helped me through some low points. They are your best friend and there when no-one else is. They cuddle up at night and sleep next to you. George is well known at The Big Issue and has always been welcomed at the office!

I am now living in a unit in Claremont that is owned by my brother-in-law. My sister is passed now, but he reckons that is what she would have wanted. I honestly don’t know what I would have done otherwise. I’ve had good people do good things for me and now feel that the tide is turning.

The best part of my life now is visiting my two beautiful grandkids every Friday, and helping their mum out. I was estranged from my kids when I was homeless, but now that I am housed these things are slowly coming back together. Over the years my relationship with my mum has been up and down, but now it’s solid. I can see things are starting to turn with time, and it will be me looking after her more and more. I also volunteer at a women’s shelter once a week. I do it to give back.

I started at The Big Issue as a vendor. I really loved it, but it was too hard for me standing up as I have a really bad back. I started to drift away but then The Big Issue asked me to be involved in the Women’s Subscription Enterprise.

I love working for the WSE. It’s an incredibly safe and inviting space to work in. I have made great friends with the other women; they are all an inspiration and have positive plans. If I’ve been having a bad day, they make me feel positive and pick me up.

Photo by Ross Swanborough

Interview by Andrew Joske
Perth