Jim Davison first met Robin Herron in 2009 at a food van in Flinders Street when he was first giving out cards to promote the new Kitchen service on Saturdays. Jim remembers having a chat with him and it wasn’t long before Robin was coming along on Saturdays and inviting others. Robin is now a regular at the Friday Kitchen.
Robin was born in Israel in 1970 to Jewish parents. He moved out of Gaza during the war in Gaza and moved to the east end of London in 1971 living there for around 10 years. His father was co-sponsored by his sister who was living in Melbourne to come out to Australia in 1981, where he then worked for an electrical company. He lived in Tullamarine, Essendon and Mill Park until he landed in St Kilda. He still feels an affinity with his Jewish heritage and has friends around St Kilda who are also Jewish.
Despite his exotic past, his childhood was tough. His school years in London were traumatic with him being picked on at school for his appearance. Robin kept to himself and became ‘a computer geek’. He remains interested in computers and has also kept in touch via Facebook with his friends from London who also took an interest in computers – including one who is now a senior academic in computer engineering in Canada.
In his teenage years, his father had problems with drinking and his parents eventually split, with his mum remarrying and heading to Queensland. When he was 16, Robin himself moved on to the street because of the turbulent home life. He tells of the difficulties of dealing with his abusive father while also dealing with his troubled younger brother: ‘the toughest thing was copping it both ways’.
His brother went into the army, and then left to run a successful restaurant in Western Australia, but Robin doesn’t have much to do with him – partly because it is costly to travel. As soon as he left home, Robin took on a labouring job. He saved up so that he could get his license and became a courier for a few transport companies, eventually owning his own van. He got some steady work but found that the hourly rate declined as competition increased over the 1990s. By 1997 he’d had enough and went to work for Mayne Nickless which was good: ‘they really helped me out’. He got a truck licence and drove road trains including B-doubles. He enjoyed this work, but found the hours punishing. In order to make the long journeys without rest, he ‘dabbled in speed’: ‘it stuffed me – I couldn’t handle it’.
Robin admits to the difficulty he’s had with drugs – licit and illicit – and links it partially to his abusive childhood. ‘Drinking was a safety gate, also having a few ones/joints’. These difficulties eventually led to losing work and also stints being homeless on the street. These days Robin’s life has turned a corner, with help through organisations like The Kitchen and the Salvation Army and he’s got through his problems with drugs. He’s got a job as a bus driver which he’s enjoying a lot, but he still likes to connect with people he knew on the street. His faith in God is an important part of what keeps him going, and he often says grace at the Friday Kitchen.