New magazine aims to address a big issue

A NEW magazine set for launch in Perth later this year will be aimed at helping unemployed and homeless people find some social and financial determination.

Local charity Ruah Community Services – once Daughters of Charity – is to act as a distribution centre for The Big Issue.

It has done a feasibility study and is raising funds to pay for a vendor support officer, who will recruit and support homeless and unemployed people to act as distributors.

The distributors buy copies of the fortnightly magazine for

$1.50 from its distribution centre and sell it on the street for $3.

Ruah project officer Helen Lines said sales studies in London and Melbourne showed 80 per cent of customers bought the magazine to support the vendors.

“I spoke to some of the vendors in Melbourne and got so inspired by their stories,” Ms Lines said.

Ruah is close to securing a partnership deal with The Body Shop and is pursuing some funding from Lotteries WA.

“If Lotteries comes to the party we’ll be up and running by the end of August,” Ms Lines said.

“Ultimately we want this to be a self-sustaining thing – something that doesn’t need government money to keep it going.”

The Big Issue managing director Bill Manallack said the magazine had been operating in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane since 1996. It is also sold in Geelong and Bendigo.

Since the beginning of this year national sales have increased 30 per cent to 13,000. It hopes to reach a circulation of 20,000 by the end of the year.

Mr Manallack said the vendors selling the magazine were now better trained and were being placed in prime city locations at prime times.

“What most of our vendors have experienced has been social exclusion for various reasons. This helps them to gain some measure of social inclusion,” he said.

“We want to become a national publication, so we’re targeting Perth and Adelaide.”

The Big Issue began in the UK 10 years ago and has since spread to four British titles and one each in Australia and South Africa.

It is a not-for-profit organisation in Australia and operates as a registered charity.

Mr Manallack said the street magazine concept had spread to a point where there were 37 similar publications operating around the world.

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