Sally Morgan's parents were William Joseph (a plumber) and Gladys Milroy. After her father's death, Morgan and her four siblings were raised by her mother and grandmother. Having been told that they were of Indian background, she discovered in her teens that the family had part-Aboriginal ancestry from her mother's and grandmother's side. This discovery motivated her later research into her family's history and culminated in the writing of her autobiographical work, My Place, which integrates the life stories of her mother (Gladys Milroy), her grandmother (Daisy Corunna), and her grandmother's brother (Arthur Corunna). She married Paul Morgan (a teacher) in 1972. In 1974, she completed her BA at the University of Western Australia, majoring in psychology, and continued with postgraduate diplomas in Counselling Psychology, Computing and Library Studies at the Western Australian Institute of Technology.
My Place, published in 1987, immediately became a best-seller, regarded as a revelation for white readers into the plight of Aboriginal people. However, the book's extraordinary success has also drawn some criticism, from white and Aboriginal voices, raising questions of authenticity and the construction of Aboriginality, as its author had not experienced life in a 'typical' Aboriginal community. Yet the book has become an 'Australian classic', with more than half a million copies sold in Australia to date. It has been translated into several foreign languages. Morgan has also gained a considerable international reputation as an artist, and has written and illustrated children's books. The Art of Sally Morgan was published in 1996.
Morgan has won numerous awards and prizes, among them the Human Rights Award for her 1989 biography of an Aboriginal relative, Jack McPhee, Wanamurraganya. In 1997, she was appointed Director of the University of Western Australia Centre for Indigenous Art and History. She has also held the positions of Chair of Aboriginal Literature Committee and membership of the Literature Board of Australia Council. Morgan worked at the School of Indigenous Studies (University of Western Australia) in the area of oral history. In a 2004 interview, she said that she sees writing as
a vehicle to give people a voice, for people to be heard, a vehicle that can tell our family stories and give a deeper balance and insight into the past as well as the present. I have been helping people to tell their stories. The last eight years I have been working with other Indigenous people and have been doing editorial work for oral history projects, which have been published as community resources. (Source: Interview with Blanch Lake, Aboriginal Information and Liaison Officer, Arts Law)
She continues to write and illustrate children's books, for which she has won or been shortlisted for a wide range of awards.