Lionel Rose was born and raised at Jackson's Track, Victoria. Rose left school at fourteen, which was also when his father died, and became a lever-man in a sawmill. Rose came from a family of fighters and had his first fight at the age of fourteen. Training at the Warragul Youth Club, Rose had his first professional fight at the age of sixteen and was Australian Champion in 1967 at the time of the Referendum. He won boxing's bantamweight World Title three times, first at the age of nineteen. In 1968, he was the first Indigenous Australian to be named Australian of the Year. Rose suffered three heart attacks, the first at the age of 39, and in 2007 he suffered a debilitating stroke.