Robert David Rooney was born in Sydney in 1934. In 1957 he entered the Benedictine Abbey of New Norcia, taking the Religious name of Bernard. He was elected Superior of New Norcia in 1971. In 1984, having relinquished the role of ruling Abbot, he was appointed Parish Priest of Moora, where he spent four years working with the Nyoongar People of the South-west. He gained a PhD in indigenous Research In 2003.
Bernard Rooney's previous publications include a Nyoongar Dictionary, and the Nyoongar Legacy: The Naming of the Land and the Language of its People. This latter publication lists the etymology of over 300 of the towns and place-names of South-Western Australia.