How The Big Issue creates connection for those who need it most

The Big Issue provides an opportunity for people experiencing marginalisation, homelessness and disadvantage to earn an income through meaningful work. Australia Post has supported The Big Issue to deliver their services across Australia since 1996. As part of our Inspiring Australians series, we chat to those who work with The Big Issue to find out how it impacts their lives.

The Big Issue has a big goal - to give people experiencing disadvantage the opportunity to work and generate an income. It’s a goal that they achieve every single day through selling the fortnightly magazine in city streets around the country.

Many of those who sell the magazine, known as vendors, are affected by homelessness, long-term unemployment, intellectual and physical disability, mental illness, drug and alcohol dependency and family breakdown. And they say that selling The Big Issue has changed their lives for the better.

“We’re a team”

Australia Post has been a partner of The Big Issue for 25 years, with some of our Post Offices acting as a distribution point for vendors. The vendors buy copies of the magazine from a participating Post Office to sell at their regular location.

Teresa, who has been a vendor for The Big Issue for more than 20 years, explains how it works: “I buy The Big Issue from Australia Post. I say, ‘I'd like five Big Issues’, and they wander out to the back room to get them for me.”

Teresa says this method of selling the magazine, which she does at GPO Melbourne, brings out the best in people. “They can talk to the vendor, or buy a magazine or even give them some money to buy coffee. I think it makes a person happy to do that,” she says.

“The Big Issue's been a big part of my life,” she says. “And it's made me a happier person. It's brought out my personality because people are so delightful. They say hello and they greet you, and that encourages you to be happy.”

It helps that Teresa knows she sells a great magazine that her customers will love: “I think it's the best magazine there is going around.”

David has been a vendor at the Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne since 2017, and it’s a decision that’s added a great deal to his life. “The Big Issue gives people the dignity of going out to work,” he says. “Our workplace is the streets of Australia.”

Although vendors are found at various locations throughout the cities, he says people are often surprised to learn that the vendors feel a connection to each other through this job they love.

“Although we're sitting on a different street corner, we're actually a team,” he says. “We wear the yellow jackets, the hat and the badge. And we have other teams behind us – the editorial team, our vendor support down in Bourke Street, and the marketing people – who make our job easier.”

The income that David earns from selling The Big Issue has had a major impact on his life too: “It's helped me meet more people and it got me to Canberra for my son's wedding.”

A job that provides connection with the community

The Big Issue magazine has been in print in Australia since 1996, with the aim of helping address the increasing homeless population. Vendors around the country have since sold 13 million copies.

The magazine is just one solution created by the team at The Big Issue. They also run The Women’s Workforce, The Big Issue Classroom and the Community Street Soccer Program, which like The Big Issue, are social enterprises that create work opportunities for people who may be unable to access mainstream employment.

One of the biggest achievements of these initiatives is creating jobs offering their workers that vital connection with the wider community.

Gamal, who has been selling The Big Issue magazine from Melbourne’s Degraves Street for over a decade, says he enjoys providing good customer service to his community. “You should make the customer happy. Because if he is happy, he is coming back,” he says.

Ourania, a team member from Flinders Lane Australia Post, says that Gamal has a knack for bringing out that enthusiasm in people. “Gamal is a big personality, and he's always lots of fun. He's very passionate about The Big Issue and he hustles to get the job done; he even hustles as he leaves this shop, asking customers if they’re interested in buying The Big Issue.”

Australia Post staff feel proud to support vendors through a life-changing social enterprise partnership. One staff member, Anmol, says, “We know the vendors by name, and we have a friendly conversation every day. It feels amazing to help people who come from a disadvantaged background to earn their livelihood.”

Australia Post is delighted to partner with The Big Issue to provide meaningful and positive change to the lives of people experiencing homelessness, marginalisation and disadvantage.

Find out more about The Big Issue.

Support The Big Issue by subscribing at the Australia Post website.