Writer and lawyer Alice Pung was born in Footscray, Victoria, and grew up in Braybrook, attending local primary and secondary schools in the Western suburbs of Melbourne. Her parents are Teochew Chinese from Cambodia, who sought refuge in Australia in 1980 after fleeing the Khmer Rouge.
Pung was educated in a number of Melbourne schools, including what was then Christ the King College (now Christ the King Primary school and Caroline Chisholm Catholic College), a Catholic girls' school. A qualified lawyer, she still undertakes work as a legal researcher in the areas of minimum wages and pay equity.
Pung worked extensively with both primary and secondary school students, as an art instructor, independent school teacher, and student mentor. she has been Writer in Residence and pastoral care adviser at Janet Clarke Hall, the University of Melbourne. In the wake of her young-adult novel Laurinda, she compiled and edited a collection of short stories by Australian secondary-school students influenced the themes of the novel, in My First Lesson.
Pung's work has been widely taught in Australian universites, particularly the memoir Unpolished Gem and the edited collected Growing Up Asian in Australia. Among her awards are the Ethel Turner Prize (NSW Premier's Literary Awards), the Western Australian Premier's Award (non-fiction), and the ABIA Award for Newcomer of the Year. She has also been shortlisted for awards such as the Colin Roderick Award, the 'Nib', the Age Book of the Year Award, the Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-fiction (NSW Premier's Literary Awards), and the Barbara Jefferis Award. Laurinda was longlisted for the Stella Prize, which has never yet been won by a young-adult novel.
In addition to work individually indexed on AustLit, her work has also appeared widely in Australian periodicals, including Meanjin.