The Big Issue in Australia turns 25
The Big Issue Foundation, Australia’s biggest social enterprise and best known for The Big Issue magazine sold by homeless street vendors, celebrated 25 years of its Australian publication in June 2021.
Big Issue vendor Russell. Photo: Kerrod Trott/Wikimedia
Upon reaching their quarter-century milestone, The Big Issue marked the occasion with a very special bumper birthday edition magazine - copies of which are still on sale.
The 76-page commemorative edition celebrated 25 years of The Big Issue’s rich history, told
through the eyes of its magazine vendors – those experiencing homelessness, marginalisation and disadvantage.
Originally founded in 1991 in Britain by John Bird and Gordon Roddick, the latter the founder of The Body Shop (cruelty-free cosmetics), the magazine was initially published monthly but, in June 1993, The Big Issue went weekly and subsequently launched regional editions throughout the UK.
In response to increasing global inequality and homelessness, The Big Issue expanded its operation worldwide to Australia, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, South Korea, and Taiwan.
To become a vendor, one must be homeless or almost homeless, vulnerably housed or marginalised in some way. Vendors earn a percentage of their sales.
The Big Issue’s Australian edition was launched in Melbourne in 1996 and has since expanded to six states and territories with hundreds of vendors proudly donning the iconic Big Issue fluoro vest across the country every day.
Over 800 vendors Australia-wide retail the magazine from street corners to shopping malls to transport hubs. Their backgrounds detail a wide range of unfortunate experiences that brought them to seek assistance. This includes homelessness, long-term unemployment, intellectual and physical disability, mental illness, drug and alcohol dependency and family breakdown. Every vendor has a different story, but all are looking to improve their lives.
Big Issue vendors have the opportunity to earn an immediate income and engage meaningfully with the community. They are proudly working selling a genuine product, which is why purchasers of the magazine are encouraged to read the magazine they buy, not just think of it as a receipt for charity.
Since Australia’s first edition, more than 7000 vendors have sold 13 million copies of the magazine to a significant readership of over 250,000 people per year - putting $32 million into the pockets of those living on the margins.
Steven Persson, CEO of The Big Issue Australia, said The Big Issue is an agent for social change, and it is more committed than ever to helping people build confidence and capacity to help themselves.
“At its heart, The Big Issue is a community and together, we are in the business of taking people out of poverty,” he affirmed.” For 25 years, we have done just that.”
“Our unique model not only provides opportunities for people to earn an income, but importantly, to build confidence and their capacity to help themselves.
“The sense of pride, purpose and community inclusion that comes with proudly working as a Big Issue vendor can be life changing. We commend the thousands of vendors who have proudly made positive changes in their lives over the past 25 years.”
Mr Persson thanked The Big Issue’s community of vendors, program participants, readers,
supporters, partners, volunteers and staff for their commitment to making a difference.
“You have stood alongside The Big Issue for 25 years and shown your dedication to alleviating
poverty in our community. We thank you for showing faith in a unique model that provides positive, sustainable employment solutions for those who need it most,” he said.
Mr Persson also encouraged the public to continue purchasing the magazine and particularly the commemorative edition.
“On our birthday, our wish is that you continue supporting The Big Issue and our vendors – first and foremost, by picking up a copy of our commemorative 25th birthday magazine,” he said.
Tune in to the 25 Years Big video online (see link below), which features a collection of stories and birthday messages from The Big Issue’s vendors, customers, partners, contributors and more, including a special birthday message from acclaimed Aussie singer Jimmy Barnes.
25th birthday celebration: