Rose Zwi was born in Mexico to Jewish refugees from Lithuania. When she was a young girl, her family moved to South Africa. She graduated from the University of Witwatersrand with a BA in English literature in 1967.
She lived briefly in Israel, but returned to South Africa, where she worked as a literary editor at Ravan Press and was active in Black Sash, a civil rights organization. In 1988, she immigrated to Australia. She is an award-winning novelist and short story writer. For her book Last Walk in Naryshkin Park (1997), Rosa Zwi traced her roots back to the small town in Lithuania that her parents fled to escape rising anti-Semitism in the years leading up to WWII and the Holocaust.