Barbara Falk, née Cohen, was born in Armadale, Victoria, Australia to a wealthy family. Her parents, Col. Harold Edward Cohen and his wife Freda Cohen, were fifth generation Australians of Anglo-Jewish descent. In early childhood, she was educated at home by a governess, and then attended Little PLC (Presbyterian Ladies College) and Lauriston Girls School. She graduated with a BA (Hons) from the University of Melbourne in 1933, winning the Dwight Prize for History and Political Science. She then studied sociology at the London School of Economics and completed a diploma of education at Oxford University. She worked as a psychotherapist while still a student in the Department of Psychology at Oxford University. After briefly studying child development at the Gesell Clinic of Child Development at Yale University, she returned to work at the Oxford Child Guidance Clinic. In 1936, she married Werner (David) Falk, a German Jewish refugee from the Nazi regime, with whom she had three children. They separated in 1957. She was appointed Principal of Mercer House, the Associated Teachers' Training Institute, and represented the Victorian independent schools at the University of Melbourne's Academic Board. In 1960, she was appointed senior lecturer in education at the University, and soon afterwards began her pioneering work on development and improvement of the teaching process. In 1980, she received the first Doctorate of Education (honoris causa) awarded by the University of Melbourne. After retirement, she resumed her history research and wrote three books: No Other Home: An Anglo-Jewish Story 1833-1987 (1988); Caught in a Snare: Hitler's Refugee Academics, 1933-1949 (1998); and with Cecile Trioli, DJ: Dorothy Jean Ross, 1891-1982 (2000).