Tasma Ockenden was born in outback SA but was educated in Adelaide. She was dux of Walford Anglican School for Girls in 1970, and graduated with a BA from Flinders University (1973). She married Jon Chittleborough in 1972 but was later divorced. She became a national student leader as the first female President of the Australian Union of Students in 1976.
In 1977 she travelled to Beirut to work with the PLO as a volunteer journalist, also sending material to Melbourne for the Alternate News Service distributed to Australian universities. As well, she visited various countries around the Mediterranean, including Libya and Iraq.
On her return she travelled around Australia, hitch-hiking as a pamphleteer, producing material on Aboriginal land rights and uranium mining, critical of the nuclear industry. She settled in Adelaide working with youth and welfare in capacities including supervising juvenile Aboriginal criminal offenders, playing the piano for Minda day care and working as a professional carer of paraplegics. She has suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome from her war-time experience in the Middle East.