Born in Ballarat, she was raised among organs as her parents ran an organ technician business. At Melbourne University, where she gained a bachelor of music, she studied composition under Keith Humble, Theodore Dollarhide, Lawrence Whiffin, and her future husband, Ian Bonighton.

Later at La Trobe University she completed her master of arts (music) in composition. This was the beginning of her lifelong relationship with liturgical music.

Australia lost one its greatest liturgical music composers with the death, in her home city, Ballarat, of Rosalie Bonighton, aged 65. She had been suffering cancer for a number of years. Although her compositions gained her international recognition, Ballarat has also lost a fine organist and committed teacher.