Barbara Jefferis was born in Adelaide, Australia. Her mother died when she was only six months old, and due to her father's absence working as a chemist in England during World War I, she was cared for by her maternal and paternal grandparents. She determined to become a writer at an early age. She went to boarding school in Adelaide and then enrolled at the University of Adelaide.
After graduation, she moved to Sydney to work as a journalist for The Daily News. She married John Hamilton Hinde, a fellow journalist on the paper. She worked at other newspapers, including The Telegraph, Women's Weekly, and Pix until the birth of the couple's daughter, when she became a freelance radio writer. She write more than 50 radio dramas, documentaries and scientific and educational programs.
In 1953, she decided to enter the Sydney Morning Herald's contest for an unpublished novel. Over the next three weeks, she wrote her first novel, Contango Day, which was the co-winner of that year's prize and was published in the USA and UK in 1954. Other novels included The Tall One (1977),
Time of the Unicorn (1974),
Half Angel (1959), The Wild Grapes (1963), and
Beloved Lady (1956).
The Barbara Jefferis Award, one of Australia's richest literary prizes, was created in her honor in 2007.