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20 September 2018



Willy sells The Big Issue in Geelong.

I was born in Adelaide. There’s me, my brother and my sister. I got brought to Melbourne when I was 14 – I didn’t leave home, DHS took me off my mother. My mum also moved to Melbourne, and they told me three months after, “You know your mother died.” My mum was a lovely girl. Me dad…he hurt me and other people too.

School was half good and half bad. I had friends, but I didn’t like any of the subjects. I left school at 15 and hung out on the streets. I was homeless until I was 17. It was easier to live on the streets than living at the foster home. Me, me brother and me sister… I was the only one that jumped the fence. Bad luck for them.

I’ve been selling The Big Issue about three years. I started in Melbourne, and then I sold in Perth for a while. Before that I was doing nothing, just sleeping all the time because I was bored. And it’s hard when you’re bored.

I was cleaning sometimes, at the Grand Prix in Albert Park, Moomba and Phillip Island… I didn’t do too much work, but. And I was working at the Gatwick Private Hotel in St Kilda when they shut it down, just doing the office, changing beds.

My girlfriend Karen is also a vendor and she sells with me on my pitch. I met Karen through school. She’s an Adelaide girl, too. When Karen moved to Melbourne, we lost contact. I slept in Bourke Street all night and she found me, through my mate Wayne. I’ve been with Karen since I was 14, but I have babies with other women as well. On the streets it’s easy to get love, kind of.

I have 10 kids. I see all of my kids, and I love them all. Two years ago, I had a baby called Ella. Her older brother Luke looks after her at the moment, he does a good job. She has beautiful blonde hair and blue eyes just like her dad.

I’m feeling good. I’ve lost almost half my body weight. I was 130kg and now I’m 70kg. I have a lot more energy to go walking now. Karen and I are losing weight for our wedding. She’s in hospital at the moment – I’ll be happy when she gets out. We just moved to Geelong. My family is up here, my sister.

In my spare time I ride bikes, go for walks, go shopping. At my flat I like to cook spaghetti Bolognese and I have a great BBQ set-up at Albert Park Lake. I love cooking BBQs. My speciality is steak, normal with no blood coming through it. I also like going to the footy and watching my team – Collingwood – play.

Karen and I are thinking about doing soccer with The Big Issue. We like watching Vet on the Hill and we clean our place every day. We have a lovely rescue cat called Zoe. I got her when she was a fluff ball, found her when she was mistreated.

I used to sell The Big Issue in South Yarra and Richmond. I hope to continue to work in Geelong. I like selling The Big Issue and I work rain, hail or shine. It’s good company – we love all the girls in the office at The Big Issue – and the customers. They’re lovely, too.

Photo by James Braund

Interview by Amy Hetherington