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Irena Sibley was born in Lithuania. She came to Australia as a refugee in 1949 and settled in Sydney. Sibley graduated in Fine Arts in 1964, married artist Andrew Sibley and moved to Melbourne in 1966. In 1967 she established the art department at Xavier preparatory school, Melbourne and taught there on and off for 13 years. Sibley travelled extensively overseas and through outback Australia. She illustrated a number of books by other authors as well as some of her own.