Robert’s birth mother, Yvonne, was coerced by her mother into giving up her baby in 1944.Jean and Tom Jones adopted Yvonne’s baby son and took him back to their home in Lane Cove on Sydney’s north shore. They were an older working couple, and they loved their son. As a child and on into his adulthood Robert studied Russian, eventually teaching this at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra.
For ten years from 1985, Robert Dessaix presented the weekly ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio National program 'Books and Writing'. He became a full time writer in 1995.
Robert Dessaix was into his 30s before he located his birth mother. He’d always known that he was adopted, Jean and Tom were open about that, but living in Melbourne after his marriage had collapsed he decided it was time “to do something about Yvonne” and so he wrote to her. This was the beginning of a continuing gentle relationship between the two.