Our vendors: Kim (The Big Issue Australia, Perth)

By Kim, The Big Issue Australia vendor

I was born in Hobart, and moved to Melbourne when I was six years old, with my three brothers and my mum and dad. Growing up, I was always surrounded by violence, abuse and drugs.

As a result of being beaten as a small child I am completely deaf in one ear and have only 20 per cent hearing in the other. It was good to be at school – an escape from the dysfunction of home. I was into all the sports, especially swimming. I managed to make it to the end of year nine, but had to pay my own way for books and uniform, so I dropped out.

Kim sells the Big Issue Australia in Perth. Photo: Ross Swanborough

When I left school I joined the Air Force at the RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] Base Edinburgh in South Australia, as a clerk and a radar technician. I have always been a hard worker, and ended up getting my sergeant stripes.

After the Air Force I ended up in Perth, where I met my husband in my early 20s. We were married for more than 25 years. He was very controlling and I was subjected to years of mental abuse and anguish. I had three beautiful kids, two girls and a boy. During this time, I continued to work hard, often as a cook and a cleaner, and on the mines and sheep stations.

I was first introduced to drug taking by my father when I was a child, so it was easy to fall back into them in my 30s. Being abused and bullied my whole life had resulted in me hating myself, and I used drugs to escape the pain.

“I am feeling much more confident. The Big Issue has improved my self-esteem.”

I was always careful to do it away from my kids, and make sure they were safe. It took me 20-odd years to come out the other side, and begin to rebuild myself and turn my life around.

I had always known about The Big Issue, but it was through meeting another vendor in Fremantle [a port city in Western Australia, near Perth]  and at the suggestion of my partner that I decided to give it a go. I don’t judge anyone, and love meeting people from all walks of life.

Since I started, I have not had many days off! The Big Issue has helped me turn my life around, and the extra income has helped me a lot. I have made improvements to my home, including working on the veggie garden. It also helps me afford a night out once or twice a month.

The income, however, is only a small part about working for The Big Issue. I had almost turned off inside, I was so shy and nervous. Now I am feeling much more confident, and The Big Issue has improved my self-esteem. I get on well with all the other vendors and have made heaps of friends. I like to mentor new vendors, the same way other vendors did for me when I first started.

I love playing with my cats, and hope to get a small dog to take for walks soon. My dream would be to travel to Machu Picchu, and I also want to spend more time with my grandchildren. I don’t want to be rich, just happy!

Written with help from Andrew Joske. We share a vendor story every Wednesday. Read more global vendor stories here.