As the self-confessed child of backpacking hippie parents Kirsty Ballentine Turnbull says a gypsy spirit is in her DNA. Born in London to a South African dad and an Australian mum, Kirsty spent her early years in a Kombi exploring the world with her intrepid parents. They eventually settled back in Perth when she was aged five, but wanderlust was never far from the surface, and the growing family was often on the road seeking new adventure.
When she was 14, the family upped stakes and moved to Brisbane, where she completed her high schooling and went to uni. The peripatetic family moved on to Melbourne, but Kirsty flew in the face of tradition, stayed in Brisbane to graduate and build a corporate career in marketing.
“By the time I was 24 I had a house, a car and a great job,” she recalls. “But I also had the travel bug, so I headed off to London and spent the next few years living and working there and in Europe. I met my husband, Jonathan Turnbull, who is a Perth boy, in the UK and we eventually moved back to Australia where he developed his career as an entrepreneur and property manager.”
Kirsty continued to work as a HR consultant specialising in executive coaching and career transitioning while raising Ava, who is now eight, and Charlie, who is six. But for the girl who liked nothing better than to lock herself in her bedroom and listen to Fleetwood Mac while designing clothes and dashing out charcoal drawings, there was always an unrequited creative gene bouncing around in the background. Then three years ago Kirsty and Jonathan bought a 1920s bungalow on a ramshackle granny block in Nedlands and Kirsty found a whole new outlet for her artistic tendancies.
Fortunately, the worldwide web makes it possible for Kirsty to browse, discover and connect with artisan producers all over the world from the comfort of her home office. Gradually, however, she has come to the realisation that as most of her custom is based in the eastern states, it makes much more sense to move over east. So the Ballentine gypsy caravan is gearing up for yet another move, this time to Queensland, where Kirsty has taken on a business partner and established a distribution warehouse.
“Now I’ve become the catalyst for change,” she says. “My brother and sister-in-law are moving to northern NSW so they can be close enough continue to help out with Mum, and the rest of us, Mum included, will be following towards the end of the year. We’ve always done things as a family and this new chapter will be no different. It’s a funny feeling as having been in Perth for 11 years, that’s the longest I’ve ever lived in one place. But we are gypsy souls and moving is what gypsies do. And challenging though it is to pack up everything and make the change, we all feel it is the right thing to do. Life goes on and it just wouldn’t suit any of us to shy away from the next challenge. It’s exciting and a bit frightening, but I have a deep down conviction that it will be for the long-term good.”
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This story was originally published in the September 2015 issue of Australian Country. Subscribe to the magazine here.
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Words Kirsty McKenzie
Photography Ryan Murphy