Nadia Wheatley grew up in Strathfield and in 1966 began an Arts Degree at The University of Sydney, with the intention of majoring in English, but switched to History, graduating with Honours in 1970. In 1972 she moved to Newtown, an inner city suburb of Sydney, and in 1975 she went to Greece to live, and there began to write seriously. She earned a MA Honours degree from Macquarie University in 1976.
Late in 1978, after some months in London, Wheatley returned to Newtown, New South Wales. Her first children's book, Five Times Dizzy, published in 1982, received the New South Wales (NSW) Premier's Special Children's Book Award in 1983, and was produced as a twelve part television series.
Her second book, Dancing in the Anzac Deli, was commended in the 1985 Australian Children's Book of the Year Awards and received the 1986 IBBY Honour Diploma for Writing. Both these books reflect her experiences of living in Greece as well as in Newtown, New South Wales. Her book for young adults, The House That Was Eureka, was based on material for her Master's thesis (the Sydney Anti-Eviction Campaign of 1931) and it won the 1985 NSW Premier's Award. Her book My Place, a picture book full of maps and words spanning 200 years of history, reflected Wheatley's interest in Australian history. It won the 1988 Book of the Year: Younger Readers Award from the Children's Book Council Of Australia. In 1994, Lucy in the Leap Year was an Honour Book in the Children's Book Council Book of the Year Awards.