LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: Henny Sharpe is happy to make the most of her opportunities in Australia.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: Henny Sharpe is happy to make the most of her opportunities in Australia. Lee Constable

Fashionista from Bali loves opportunities Aussie life brings

HER house has pictures of the Eiffel tower and scenes of Edinburgh on the walls. On another wall is the saying, "Home is where our story begins".

For Henny Sharpe, 34, her story begins in the hustle and bustle of Bali, where she grew up. Doing ballet lessons alongside traditional Balinese dancing, she knew she would one day live overseas.

"I always thought (living overseas) was something I would do. I embrace different cultures and customs," she said.

Bali was a fun place to grow up with her younger brother.

"You get all these beautiful beaches and lots of colours around you. On ceremonial days all the Balinese make...beautiful offerings," she said.

But life in Bali is not always like the glossy tourist brochure.

"In Bali the people are always friendly, always smiling. But it can be a hard life. If you want to make something work, you work hard. But sometimes you don't get that fair chance ," she said.

Learning English as a schoolgirl, Henny finished high school and went back to Java to study fashion design and French.

"My mum made me realise that I really liked fashion. I realised this was what I wanted to do," she said.

After a year, Henny headed to Paris for three years to study at private fashion school Esmod.

"I learnt how to sew, how to do sketches, mix colours and the history of fashion.I lived in the 16th arrondissement. My apartment was tiny. I would work in an Indonesian restaurant. I loved the champagne, the food and I loved that the French often get together," she said.

Finishing her studies, she opened a boutique in Bali, selling women's clothes.

"I would design the clothes, make the pattern and cut the fabric. A seamstress would sew them for me. I actually hated sewing at school," she said.

The business was successful to start but Henny got swept up in the party side of Bali.

"It was hard work. I think I wasn't focused. I got sucked into the glamorous lifestyle of fashion and Bali. Bali can be party central."

Feeling her life had become all about fashion, Henny felt it was time for a new chapter.

"I wanted to explore what else I could do," she said.

In 2007, Henny made a life-changing trip to Australia.

"I went to Sydney and came to Mackay to visit a friend. We headed out to the Northern Beaches Bowls Club for New Year's Eve and I asked for a special drink.

"They didn't have it so they said talk to the manager, Jayson. It was a classical love story, meeting at the bowls club," she laughs.

The couple became friends and when Henny returned to Bali to renew her visa, Jayson decided to follow her.

In 2010 they married at the Mackay Courthouse and Henny recently became an Australian citizen.

"I became a citizen because I feel this is my home now. My kids were born Australian and so is my husband so it's the right thing to do for me. I feel like I'm already a true blue Aussie. I can sing the national anthem better than my husband," she said.

Henny has made the most of the opportunities living in Australia has given her.

She has a children's fashion line, inspired by daughter Saige, 5.

After helping son Jacob, 7, who has autism through school, she is studying to be a teacher's aide.

"It's something I'm working on. I love Australia. If you want it, you work for it and you get it. In Indonesia it's harder to get where you want to be. You get a fair chance in everything here," she said

Henny would also like her children to experience living in Bali.

"I would love to take my kids back ...for a summer, to go to school and learn the language. Mackay is home. Home is where my family is."



How to save $200 on your electricity bill

How to save $200 on your electricity bill

Slash your power bill and reduce your impact on the environment

12 fantastic things to do this week

12 fantastic things to do this week

From ice skating in Ballina to a tantra festival in Byron Bay

Attention gin lovers: Impressive wins for local distillery

Attention gin lovers: Impressive wins for local distillery

North Coast distillery takes out top gongs at major competition

Local Partners