Traudi Allen emigrated to Australia from England at the age of nineteen. She worked as a waitress at a ski resort, then as a records clerk in a Sydney motorbike shop and then as a cashier at the Luna Park funfair. She cleaned rooms in a boarding house in exchange for free rent, taking a typing course during the day and studying for the Higher School Certificate in the evenings. It was the 1960s and she was the only woman in the physics class and one of only two studying economics. She found work as a typist at the Australian Broadcasting Commission, leaving to take degrees in Psychology and Politics. Returning to the typing job, she was offered a research position with a BBC documentary team filming in Australia and then to her being hired as a researcher with the current affairs television programme This Day Tonight. Making occasional on-air contributions, she reported on an exhibition by the Melbourne artist Clifton Pugh. A biography resulted that she completed while a full-time producer of a current affairs programme with Radio Australia. The book was launched in 1981 by the former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.
She took up postgraduate study in the early 1980s, and went on to write further art books while contributing art interviews and documentaries to ABC Radio National, ABC FM and Radio Australia, and won the Fellowship of Australian writers Hawthorn Group poetry prize in 1987. A series of videos on art was released by Video Education Australasia that have been seen in schools across Australia. She gained an MA and PhD in art history and worked as a lecturer at Monash and RMIT universities. In 1997 she established what is thought to have been the first university course in Australia on contemporary art of the Asia-Pacific.
Her analysis of nationalism in Australian art: Homesickness, took her back to the place where she received her assisted passage to Australia when it was launched at Australia House in London by Geoffrey Robertson QC. She is now a full-time writer and adjunct research fellow with the school of philosophical, historical and international studies at Monash University.