AUSTRALIA’S leading street magazine, The Big Issue, is looking for Indigenous people who want to work for themselves.
The non-profit magazine is sold on the streets by people like Reuben (pictured) who has been selling The Big Issue in Brisbane for two months. He enjoys meeting people, working for himself, and having money in his pocket. He chooses his own hours and usually works three or four days a week, for about five hours a day.
Reuben and other vendors like him are making positive changes in their lives. Some are homeless, long term unemployed or live on the margins of society.
The Big Issue provides an. employment option that is flexible enough to accommodate their needs. Most of the vendors would often have difficulty obtaining and keeping full-time employment. The Big Issue allows them to work when they are up to it.
As Indigenous people are more likely to experience homelessness than any other Australian it just might be an option that works.
The magazine is sold on the streets of capital cities and inner city suburbs all over Australia. The concept is a wonderfully simple and effective one. The vendors buy the magazine for two dollars and sell the magazine for four dollars. All profits and tips go straight to the vendor.
The more hours you work, the more magazines you sell. The more magazines you sell, the more money you make. You can even decide what days and what times you want to work. You decide when and where you want to work, and for how long. In this way, you are your own boss. You also have cash in the hand every day you work.
Bec has been selling The Big Issue in Brisbane for 18 months. “I like the work because I get to mingle with others in the same situation,” she said. “And The Big Issue doesn’t judge people on race, gender or age.”
For Greg it’s great to be making money.
“At least you’re not raking up (begging). I felt shame at first, but give it a try, you don’t have to shout out to sell and I’ve got money in my pocket every day,” he says with six months experience behind him.
The Big Issue magazine gets vendors back into the community and develops their self-confidence to start making other changes in their lives.
Brisbane Manager Ben Pennings said it gives vendors a feeling of self-worth and dignity to earn their own money and gives them the opportunity to interact with the general public.
“This is a twofold benefit because it gives vendors social interaction that they might otherwise miss out on and helps the general public to become more aware of the issues faced by our vendors, such as homelessness, psychiatric disability, and drug and alcohol addiction,” Ben said.
“We give many of our vendors a ‘permanent pitch’ to sell from so they can build a regular customer base and develop social interactions with regular customers. Some vendors are offered other employment, accommodation, and social options from their regular customers.”
The Big Issue also assists vendors by offering support such as a mini-bank for vendors so they can save money for bond and bills; referral to services such as drug and alcohol services, gambling services, disability and medical services; assistance in dealing with the bureaucratic processes of Centrelink, the Department of Housing (bond loans), Legal Aid and help to search for accommodation and employment/education options.
The Big Issue is looking for workplaces that would be happy for vendors to visit regularly to sell the magazine to staff. Often vendors feel vulnerable selling on the streets because of domestic violence and other issues that are impacting on their lives. Women particularly feel more comfortable selling the magazine off the streets in a less public place.
For more information contact Cara Doherty at the Brisbane office on (07) 3220 3775 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Story and Photo by Craig Hill