Marilyn Lake grew up in Tasmania, where she completed her undergraduate and Master's degrees in History. Marilyn moved to Melbourne in 1976 and enrolled in a PhD degree in History at Monash University. During that time she gave birth to two daughters, Kath and Jess. Marilyn subsequently held academic positions at Monash University, The University of Melbourne and La Trobe University, where she also served as Associate Dean Research and was appointed Charles LaTrobe Professor in History in 2010. Marilyn held Visiting Professorial Fellowships at Stockholm University, ANU, the University of Sydney, the University of Western Australia and the University of Maryland. Between 2001 and 2002 she held the Chair in Australian Studies at Harvard University. In the last ten years Marilyn has mainly been in research positions supported by two ARC Australian Professorial Fellowships.
Marilyn Lake was elected Fellow of the Academy of Humanities of Australia in 1995; and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia in 1999. She is currently President of the Australian Historical Association.
Marilyn has been fortunate that several of her books have won prizes: The Limits of Hope: Soldier Settlement in Victoria 1915-38 won the Harbison-Higinbotham prize and was short-listed for the Age Book of the Year in 1987; FAITH: Faith Bandler Gentle Activist won the HREOC award for non-fiction in 2002; Creating a Nation which Marilyn wrote with Patricia Grimshaw, Ann McGrath and Marian Quartly also won the HREOC prize for non-fiction and was shortlisted for the Adelaide Writers' Festival Prize; Drawing the Global Colour Line which she co-authored with Henry Reynolds won the Ernest Scott prize, the Queensland Premier's Prize for History and the Prime Minister's Prize for Non-Fiction in 2009.