The Big Issue : Edition 539
TAKING IT TO THE STREET THE BIG ISSUE 16 – 29 JUNE 2017 15 “SELLING THE BIG Issue gets me out of the house and stops me getting depressed and allowing those negative thoughts to creep in,” says Shane, a vendor who grew up in Perth with a violent and alcoholic father. “As the oldest I sometimes bore the worst of it.” Omulbanin came to Australia from Afghanistan as a seven-year-old and works with the Big Issue Women’s Subscription Enterprise. “I love my kids, they mean a lot to me. I always spend the extra money I make at The Big Issue to buy them some nice clothes and some healthy food.” As for Sydney vendor Jacob, who found himself homeless in Year 12, “I started sleeping rough in Parramatta...then I stayed in a hostel in Kings Cross for about five or seven weeks before I graduated from school. The Big Issue is one of the best things that has happened to me, it’s already done so much for me ever since I put my foot inside that front door...” Shane, Omulbanin and Jacob are just a few of those within The Big Issue community whose stories have featured in the magazine in the last year. Uplifting and often confronting reads, our vendors and their stories lie at the very heart of The Big Issue; and have done for the past 21 years. Read a vendor profile from 1996 and you’ll find it near identical to the vendor profiles we publish today. While much has changed since we launched in June 1996 – the internet and mobile phones barely existed, mass media was making a motza, terrorism was barely on the radar – there are many problems that remain the same. FROM ALL ACCOUNTS, the day of the launch on the steps of Flinders Street Station in Melbourne was a cold and wet one, but that didn’t stop vendors selling 700 copies of the first edition in two hours. The magazine was $2 and featured a cover story about buskers. The magazine’s mission was to help the homeless by giving them the chance to earn themselves a dollar – literally, as they took half of the cover price. And still do, although the vendors are no longer necessarily homeless. The idea was sparked by a chance meeting in New York, when Body Shop cofounder Gordon Roddick stumbled upon a homeless man outside of Grand Central Station selling a streetpaper, Street News. He promptly took the idea back home to London, and in 1991 The Big Issue was born. In 1996, coincidentally the Year for the Eradication of Poverty, Australian Body Shop owner and philanthropist Graeme Wise followed suit by establishing the Australian version of the magazine. And further editions in other countries were to follow. Today, 21 years later, we’re still here, and we’re celebrating our 21st birthday this month. There are now 550 vendors all around Australia, who, together with the 150 women at the Women’s Subscription Enterprise, sell close to 30,000 magazines each fortnight. Last year, our vendors collectively earned a record-taking $2.3 million. Big Issue CEO Steven Persson believes there are two important ways to lift people from poverty: “The first is having an opportunity to earn an income. Proudly and successfully The Big Issue, through The Big Issue magazine, has been offering the most disadvantaged Australians this opportunity. “The second critical component is 21 YEARS AND 11 MILLION MAGAZINES LATER, THE BIG ISSUE CONTINUES ITS MISSION, WHICH REMAINS JUST AS VITAL AS EVER. “THE DAY OF THE LAUNCH ON THE STEPS OF FLINDERS ST STATION WAS A COLD, WET ONE.” PHOTOGRAPHBYILANAROSE THE SUN SHONE – FOR A MOMENT – WHEN THE BIG ISSUE WAS LAUNCHED AT FLINDERS STREET STATION, MELBOURNE, 1996.