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Meet Jimbelunga’s new cook Charlene Riley

We caught up with Jimbelunga Cook Charlene to learn more about her background and passion for food.

Check out the Q&A below.

Could you please share a bit about yourself?

I am a proud Gungalu and Jarowair women, with blood and land ties ranging from the Far North Queensland rainforest country passing back down to the outskirts of the Toowoomba region. My mum and dad have raised me in Brisbane, which I have always known as home. 

Could you please tell us about your career journey before this current role?

I’ve always had a passion for cooking. I grew up watching and learning from both my mother and father in the kitchen, which has been a great inspiration for me. Being a single mum of six children, I’m always cooking. I started to focus on going further with cooking by graduating from the Institute of Culinary Excellence and working in numerous restaurants. My first job at 15 years of age was a food and beverage wait staff for an award-winning tourist attraction (Tjapukai) so I had a fair idea of what to expect in the hospitality industry. 

When did you start working at Jimbelunga?

I haven’t been here for long, just over a month now, but I feel like this is my dream job and I plan to stay for a very long time. Especially knowing now that I am giving back to my Elders which is a very important to me. 

Why did you choose to work for Jimbelunga?

I tried to get my dad into this centre (Jimbelunga) being that it was of culture, plus it had good care reviews. He was a very cultural man and obviously since having to hand him over I wanted him to have the best care going. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get in being that it was full. 

We then lost Dad suddenly before he could get placed. I have always been close to him and even beyond the grave I feel my dad’s presence and blessings. He was also a cook for an Aboriginal organisation, so I hope I’m doing him proud by following in his footsteps. I believe also working here is a part of him and God’s plan.

What are you most looking forward to in your new role?

Most definitely giving back to the community and Elders, seeing all these lovely Elders who I have already taken a shine too and cooking more meals close to their hearts. 

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I enjoy being a mother to my beautiful children and also arts and crafts in my spare time. I come from a big family so also anything that is family orientated as well.

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