Dr Desmond Patrick Ballantyne

Dr Desmond Patrick Ballantyne, born in the Mater Maternity Ward on Fulham Road in Townsville on 14 February 1975 is the son of James Ballantyne and Jacinta Chin, proprietors of Ballantyne & Chin, Accountants in the shopping centre and commercial development on the corner of Ross River Road and Elizabeth Street opposite Stockland Plaza.

After attending primary school at Holy Spirit school in Cranbrook (1980-86) he completed his secondary education at the neighbouring Ignatius Park College (1987-91). 

His family lived in a sprawling riverside compound in Cranbrook, handily convenient to the James Cook University campus at Douglas. 

Desmond's Year Twelve result, an OP 1, would have taken him into Medicine if there had been a medical school at James Cook in 1992. While he could have moved to Brisbane, he decided to stay in Townsville, living at home and funding his living costs by enlisting in the Army Reserve. He had been a member of the Army Cadets at Ignatius Park, 

After completing a Bachelor of Science with Honours in marine biology (1992-95), he went on to a doctorate, working on the toxicology of venomous marine life found in northern waters (1996-99). He was carrying out fieldwork off the coast of Arnhem Land in 1997, working out of Nhulunbuy and Elcho Island when he met his wife Lynette, a Gumatj Yolngu woman.

She moved to Townsville with him when his fieldwork was complete, and the couple lived in the granny flat attached to his parents' residence. 

The flat was formerly occupied by Desmond's grandfather Doug Ballantyne, who had passed away in 1995. Their first child, Belinda, was born in 1998, followed by Michael in 2000 and Tamara in 2001.

While Desmond completed his doctorate, Lynette enrolled for an Education degree. She switched to Social Work when Desmond opted to enter the newly established JCU medical school in 2000 rather than carry out post-graduate research at the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

When Desmond graduated with his M.B. and B.S. at the end of 2005, Lynette had completed her Bachelor of Social Work and had most of the requirements for a Bachelor of Education. She picked up the remaining units while Desmond completed his internship in Darwin (2006-07) and spent a six-month deployment in East Timor in 2008.

From there the couple moved to Katherine, where Desmond was employed at the Giles Street Medical Centre while he completed his General Practitioner qualifications.

When Dr Brendan Trimble, the founder of the GSMC retired in 2014, Ballantyne Property Holdings bought the practice and Desmond became the nominal proprietor. He ran it as a co-operative, 'employing' three other doctors. 

Ballantyne Property Holdings also bought into neighbouring commercial properties and leased them out. Working on the principle that the Medical Centre was what brought most of the customers into the precinct, while the other businesses paid a standard commercial rate, the Medical Centre's lease involved a peppercorn rent.

Ballantyne & Chin paid the Medical Centre's bills, met the weekly running costs, and invoiced the individual practitioners for one-quarter of the monthly expenses. 

Ballantyne's share was paid through Ballantyne Medical, into which Desmond channelled all his medical earnings. His family's day to day living expenses came out of Desmond's Army Reserve salary and Lynette's earnings as a guidance officer with the Northern Territory's Education Department.

That combination of circumstances allowed Desmond to engage in a considerable amount of pro bono medical work in areas associated with indigenous health, particularly in remote communities. While he was generally available for appointments at GSMC on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, he worked with the local health service in Katherine in the afternoons and was free on Tuesdays and Thursdays if his professional services were required elsewhere.

If his services were not required elsewhere, he would take appointments on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but his activities away from GSMC by and large suited his co-practitioners, who picked up most of the centre's paying customers.

He was also available pro bono to returned servicemen, particularly those who had been deployed to East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Those roles changed after he was endorsed as the Australian Labor Party's second candidate for the Australian Senate at the next Federal election, due in 2019.

Before the announcement at the end of 2017, Desmond had resigned from the Army Reserve, withdrawn from most private medical consultations and, while he maintained the pro bono work he was, to all intents and purposes, a full-time political candidate in the lead-up to the election.

© Ian Hughes 2017