Born in Bundaberg, Dr Sandra Phillips is a member of the Wakka Wakka nation of southern Queensland. She grew up on her people's country, raised by her mother amongst her mother's extended family. Her family background includes three other Aboriginal nations. Dr Phillips holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and government from the University of Queensland (1988).
In her twenties and thirties she travelled and worked around Australia in social research, and teaching. She trained as a book editor with Magabala Books and the University of Queensland Press. During this time Phillips also had three sons.
In 2007, she was the recipient of the inaugural Oodgeroo Noonuccal Postgraduate Scholarship, and the
Indigenous Postgraduate Research Award (IPRA), earning her Doctorate in Literary Studies (Creative Industries Faculty of the Queensland University of Technology) in 2012.
Sandra began as Lecturer with the University of the Sunshine Coast shortly after graduation. In addition to being a publisher's editor on numerous titles in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writing oeuvre, and named editor on two collected works, Sandra's own writing from 1988 has been published in journals and newspapers.