Shirley was born in Shanghai and lived in Hong Kong till she was 12, when the family moved to Melbourne. She has had a long career in primary schools as a classroom teacher, teaching at all levels. As a trained drama teacher, she also taught drama and directed school productions.
After leaving teaching, Shirley was an education consultant in drama and cooperative learning, before taking up lengthy residence at Werribee Open Range Zoo as a Safari Guide, and later at Melbourne Zoo in Sponsorship.
Shirley first started writing in 1975. She has written many books on her own and with a number of co-writers. She has also written, with Celia Meehan, a number of plays for children, which can be performed by adults or by children. She and Celia formed Me’n’Syd Productions and produced and directed the plays in local venues.
Shirley’s longest writing partnership has been with Ron Thomas, with whom she has written dozens of titles, including blackline masters, teacher resource books and short stories. Together they established and co-author a website for kids and teachers, www.kidcyber.com.au. From its origins as a website to support a series of teacher resource books about developing research skills from Prep to Year 6, it has grown into an extensive, successful and very popular site accessed by thousands of students.
Shirley’s interest in theatre includes acting, directing, administrative and backstage activities as well of course as participation as an audience member. Her interest in animals these days is mostly focused on her cocker spaniel Tallullah. Other interests include cooking, reading and travel