One of nine children, Blackmore was born to an Aboriginal mother and an English father. Both of his parents were alcoholics. At the age of 15 Blackmore, virtually illiterate, left school and lived for 10 years on the streets where he developed drug and alcohol addictions. Ernie then had many years of managerial experience in the long distance road transport industry and several years as a taxi operator before turning his attentions to an academic career
Having recovered from addiction and cancer surgery in 1995, Blackmore enrolled as a student at Wollongong University in Creative Arts. In 2002-2003, Blackmore was a consultative editor for some Indij Readers series.He was awarded his PhD in 2007. Blackmore is also a playwright and has tutored at Wollongong and Macquarie universities (2007).