After completing a BA at the University of Western Australia, Leigh Dale moved to Queensland in 1986 to begin postgraduate studies. In 1987, at the University of Queensland, she completed a comparative study of black South African and Australian Aboriginal poetry for her MA. She followed this with a history of the teaching of literature in English and Australian universities for her PhD, a project that provided foundation research for The English Men: Professing Literature in Australian Universities (1997). After teaching in the English department at the University of Queensland, Dale was seconded as Director of the Contemporary Studies Program at the Ipswich campus in 2001, returning to the School of English, Media Studies and Art History at the St Lucia campus in 2004. In 2009 Dale moved to Wollongong where she became Head of the School of English, Literatures and Philosophy. In addition to her own work, Dale helped to establish the electronic edition of the Australian studies journal, Crossings, in 2000. She became editor of Australian Literary Studies in 2002.