Global Vendor Spotlight - Emma, The Big Issue Australia in Melbourne
The things that put someone out on the street in Australia—loss of employment, sickness, relationship breakdown—can happen very quickly. Putting a vendor onto a street pitch [selling location], as part of the long rebuilding process, is the result of lots of hard work by vendor support workers: getting official consent for each pitch, training and supporting vendors, booking times, distributing magazines ...
But it doesn’t stop there. More vulnerable vendors—or any who want to, really—can sell through “The Big Issue at Work” program. Emma from Melbourne is one vendor who thrives on this, thanks to her own reliability and a bit of proactive community support from a large law firm.
“I just come into the office at 11 o’clock, get the magazines, then go out to Freehills [law firm] on Collins Street. They have a library upstairs, and provide lunch. I have lunch and start selling—I’ve done this about two years.
“I’ve been going to the Carlton Learn- ing Center twice a week for three or four years, doing math and English—grammar, writing for public debates. My math is sort of ... [laughs], but I’m getting there! We don’t have tests, but we do have assignments.
“We went on an excursion to The Big Issue Melbourne office, and I thought, ‘Oh yeah, this might be a good job for me.’ When I first started I sold on the street, wherever was available. Even now I like to sell on the street some- times, but it’s not easy because people are always in a hurry.
“Kirstie and Gemma [vendor support managers] wanted someone to work at this lawyers’ office, and they thought of me. I thought it would be great and I was keen. It’s one day a fortnight.”
The benefit Emma gets on Collins Street goes beyond the sales she makes: Freehills not only provides lunch and a ready pool of buyers, but staff also take time to assist Emma with her assignments and provide the sort of ongoing contact and encouragement that all vendors get from their regular customers. And, of course, flowers and a cake on her birthday.
When it comes to cake, Emma is a dab hand [skilled] herself. “On the weekends I’ll probably go to the pictures [cinema] or bake a cake ... I live with my uncle, because my parents live in the country and there aren’t many jobs around there. I cook at home, with whatever’s in the cupboard. You can’t afford to go to the supermarket all the time so you just think, ‘Well, just see what’s in the cupboard and whip something together, make it up…’
“And I like to go to the footy [Aus- tralian rules football], to see my team Geelong. I go to a couple of matches each year with my uncle—he loves his footy.
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.