Alec Derwent Hope was born in Cooma, New South Wales, on 21 July 1907, the first of four children of Percival (a clergyman) and Florence Ellen (Scotford) Hope. Most of his childhood was spent in rural New South Wales and in Campbell Town, Tasmania, where he was educated at home by his parents. His father began to teach him Latin (Julius Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic Wars [52-51 B.C.] and passages from Livy) at the age of ten.
Coming home in the years of the Great Depression meant that work was impossible to find, and Hope's father sent him off to camp on a piece of land he owned near Bungan Head on the coast, paying him the equivalent of the dole.
Hope was finally transferred to Canberra in 1937 to Telopea Park High School. In 1937 he met Penelope Robinson, whom he married on 27 May 1937. The Hopes rented an abandoned house overlooking the harbor to Cockatoo Island. The Hopes' home was in an area that was considered a military target after Japan entered the war, and in 1940, with the birth of their first child, Emily, they moved to Castle Crag, at the northern edge of the city. The Hopes' two other children, twins Andrew and Geoffrey, were born in 1944. A. D. Hope died on 13 July 2000 in Canberra.