After a childhood of loneliness and disadvantage, Peter Kocan left school at thirteen and worked on isolated properties in the NSW outback with off periods in Sydney. In 1966, at the age of nineteen, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the attempted murder of Australian Labor Party leader Arthur Calwell (q.v.).
Kocan was first incarcerated in Long Bay Correctional Centre, where a chance remark led to his discovering poetry. After a matter of weeks, he was removed to Morisset Mental Hospital, where he studied literature and began to write. Two collections of poetry, Ceremonies for the Lost (1974) and The Other Side of the Fence (1975), were published while he was still in Morisset.
After his release in 1976, Kocan lived on the Central Coast of New South Wales, studying, teaching, acting, and writing drama, poetry, and fiction, including two autobiographical novels, The Treatment (1980) and The Cure(1983). He graduated from the University of Newcastle with a BA (Hons) in 1998 and with a Masters of Creative Arts in 2003. Kocan moved to Brisbane in 2003.