2011, People, Stories and Articles

Robyn Jenkinson, Alexandria Station, NT

“You’re welcome!”

Nine years ago, Robyn Jenkinson was having a brief stay in hospital, and thought she might as well look through an edition of “The Land” newspaper. The Positions Vacant column contained an advertisement for a cook at Alexandria Station, NT. She chuckles, “I never even knew what a station was.” A resume was needed, so she enlisted the help of her sister, whose shocked response said it all. “That’s in the Northern Territory, Robyn!”

It was a huge leap of faith in a different direction, in more ways than one. Geographically, Robyn had spent a childhood in Victoria, and eighteen years in Tasmania. She’d worked for six years in the publications area of the Department of Civil Aviation, and during the time in Tassie she’d trained as a chef. She quickly clarifies that qualification. “Just call me a cook! I like getting into a kitchen, doing the basics, and cooking up a good feed.” Her application was successful, and a long train /bus trip from Wangaratta to Melbourne, to Alice Springs, to Tennant Creek followed. Next morning, Laird Irvine, long term employee of “Alex”, came to collect her. It was a silent journey back to the Station. As she looked out the window, all the shy new cook could think was, “There’s NOTHING!” At the first gate to “Alex”, Laird broke the silence… “Open the gate!” (Note well – Laird and Robyn became, and remain good friends!)

Robyn Peatling played a major role in helping Robyn J to settle in. The first Monday of work, Mrs P showed the shy cook around the kitchen, and was thinking, “either she knows nothing, or she doesn’t have to be shown anything.” The latter proved to be the case.

The Peatlings offered Robyn the first Christmas off. She was homesick and decided to stay at “Alex” knowing she wouldn’t come back if she accepted! She went home the following March, and “was breaking my neck to get back here!”… and every year, I’ve just come back. It’s just great. I’m happy doing what I’m doing.”

Most days, Robyn begins work before 5:00am, and a hearty breakfast is followed by an equally yummy morning tea, filling lunch, and enjoyable dinner.

Robyn regards her cooking job as more than providing good food. She keeps the lines of communication open with all the station staff, and with a heart for the younger ones, she emphasises to them that mutual respect is not automatic, cannot be imposed, and has to be earned. She appreciates the band of “kitchen fairies” (JR (Johnnie Rankin), Laird and Craig Walsh) who stay back after the evening meal, and help to clean up. She adds, “Now a couple of the younger fellas are staying back too.” She’s told them, “You don’t have to do this, you know, ” and they’ve told her, “We do it ‘cos we want to.” Robyn feels rewarded, “…It makes you feel as though it’s all worthwhile.”

Robyn chooses to eat meals with the staff – seated at the “mature aged” table, and the laughter, chat, cheek and “carrying on” in the “A Cafe” make for “hysterics and a real circus here some nights!”

Her ability to see the humour in situations is consistently evident and she shares that, “I don’t often lose my cool, but they know it when I do!” Memories include a night when a large casserole dish Slipped, and the meal spilled all over the open oven door. Dave Bruin, the pilot at the time, was the only other person around, and noting that none of it had reached the floor, encouraged Robyn by helping her to spoon it back into the dish. They conspired together “Nobody’s going to know!”

Robyn Jenkinson, cook for nine years at Alexandria Station is valued and appreciated beyond the Station. In 2010, she addressed the gathering of women at the Womens Days at the Bark Hut (Barkly Roadhouse). From all accounts, and in spite of Robyn’s comment that “I don’t remember one thing of that speech,” it was entertaining and interesting.

Hundreds of “Alex” staff, Company heads and guests have exited the “A Cafe” well satisfied. Invariably, all diners stop at the door to express their gratitude with, “Thanks Robyn”. It’s equally satisfying to hear one of Robyn Jenkinson’s memorable responses: “Yes”, “OK”, “No worries”, “Not a problem”, ”You’re welcome!”
“Thanks, Robyn.”