Our vendors: Keira (The Big Issue Australia, Sydney, Australia)

Interview by Sam Clark, The Big Issue Australia

I found out about The Big Issue through my studies at school and I thought it sounded like a great organisation. When I finished school, I contacted them and they told me that I could become a vendor. I was so excited that I could actually be paid for working, so I started as soon as I could. It is my first job out of school.

I live in The Shire and it is nice and comfortable there, so I work there as well as outside the Miranda train station. It’s been really good. I’ve got to meet lots of interesting people who are very nice.

Natalie is one of my support workers and we go out and sell The Big Issue together. I am very lucky to have many lovely support workers and my family is very supportive of me. They love to see me being independent and they always tell me that I can do whatever I want.

When I was eight, doctors found a tumour in my brain stem. Something needed to be done, so a neurosurgeon removed the tumour. I walked into theatre but, when I came out, I couldn’t move at all or breathe on my own. I spent 474 days in hospital and slowly got some function back. I have been a wheelchair user and have needed 24/7 care ever since.

Big Australia vendor Keira. [Credit: Peter Holcroft]

School was very hard for me. I felt very isolated and separated from my classmates. I went to the principal to try and get help, but it didn’t really do anything. So, I became an advocate for people with wheelchairs within the school, and I tried to help people understand the difficulties that people in wheelchairs face, but many people found it hard to understand. Hopefully some of them learned a little from what I had to say. I think things are getting better, though, because people are more aware of the challenges that people in wheelchairs face. I think getting out there and selling The Big Issue is helpful, because I am seen by the public and I can increase awareness that way.

I’m 18 now and I need an adult-sized wheelchair. A new chair has been approved, but it could take up to 12 months. Getting the new one will make things a lot easier. Sometimes this chair just stops without any warning: it means that I have to stay home for the day, and I can’t go out and do the things I had planned.

I really like what The Big Issue is doing to raise awareness. It is not just a job; there are so many other social aspects to it.

I have started studying Community Services at TAFE. When I graduate, I want to go into charity work, but I wouldn’t want to leave The Big Issue. Hopefully I can do it part-time.

My absolute dream would be to work in Hollywood as a director, as I love all things TV related! I have been lucky and have met many celebrities, like Zac Efron and Nicole Kidman.