Ivan Kobal was born in Planina, Slovenia, Yugoslavia. He spent five years at high school in Italy missing the worst part of World War II. The suppression of all Slovenian cultural activity contributed to his determination to find another country in which to settle. After three years of camp life sponsored by the International Refugee Organisation, he emigrated to Australia in May 1950. He worked for two years in an iron foundry, then as a builder's labourer. Between 1954 and 1958 he worked for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority as a surveyor's assistant. In the late 1970s two chapters of his work Men Who Built the Snowy were published in SCOPPas well as some of his articles and translations. He qualified also as a carpenter at the Sydney Technical College and obtained a Building Construction Diploma from the International Correspondence Schools (ICS).
Kobal has also written The Snowy : Cradle of a New Australia (1999) that contains his first work, Men Who Built the Snowy : Men Without Women(1982), for which he received an Australia Council, Literature Board grant.