But behind the quietly confident and humble facade lurks a talented novelist of untapped potential on the road to literary fame.
The first tentative step came last year, when Tonkin entered a Tabor College short story writing competition on Facebook for inclusion in A Chicken Can Make a Difference - an anthology of faith-based, true life stories.
To her delight, her entry titled Welcome Home, about a 27-year old meeting her dad for the first time, was included in the book. “It only took me about an hour to get it done and after I’d edited it, it was 1499 words, I thought ‘that will do’, and so I sent it off,” Tonkin says.
Originally from Adelaide and now in Darwin, Tonkin’s family history is complex. “It’s just an amazing story of forgiveness and heartbreak and betrayal and reconciliation and joy,” she says.
Brought up by her grandparents, the former music teacher has been chronicling her family’s history for what is planned to be a trilogy of books.
“I originally decided that I wanted to leave something for our three girls, sort of a legacy in print,” Tonkin says. The first book Nellie’s Child, is based on her grandmother and mother.
“Anne, my mum, was essentially an unwanted child at the time. “My grandmother was involved in a religious sect – the Exclusive Brethren, so my mother’s family were brought up in this sect and she wanted to get out of it because it was so restrictive.
“But she was unable to when she was young and so there was this friction...” Tonkin hopes her writing will inspire and remind readers ‘about the grace and reconciliation of our great God.
“In the end because of the faith that I’ve grown up with, despite all the reasons why I probably should have chucked God, the thing is that, for me, the power of God became very real after I gave birth to our first daughter.
“And that really brought up a lot of issues ... and I remember just having this moment in the hospital where I was angry with God and said ‘this little baby here, how on earth could anybody leave a child’, because I’d never really dealt with what had happened...
“So, I guess I had this moment with God and came to a place eventually of peace, and that’s why I ended up contacting my father, because I felt that God put it in my heart and told me ‘you won’t have any peace in your life, Carolyn, until you forgive’ . Nellie’s Child will hopefully get a publisher’s green light soon.