Born Jean Robinson in Drouin, Victoria, she attended Geelong Church of England Grammar School and gained a PhD in French literature at the University of Melbourne with a thesis on Charles Baudelaire, and undertook postgraduate studies at the Sorbonne. In 1950 she married Charles Battersby, whom she met as a university student. In 1968, she was invited by H. C. Coombs, chairman of the Australian Council for the Arts, to become its first Executive Officer. Coombs became her mentor and friend.
She was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1986.
In 1987 she began a new career as an arts advisory consultant for corporate buyers. She died in a Sydney nursing home after an 18-month battle with cancer of the oesophagus.  She died on what would have been Coombs's 103rd birthday.
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