Australia Geography


Australia is an island continent whose landscape - much of it uncompromisingly bleak and inhospitable - is the result of gradual changes wrought over millions of years. Although there is still seismic activity in the eastern and western highland areas, Australia is one of the most stable land masses, and for about 100 million years has been free of the forces that have given rise to huge mountain ranges elsewhere.


The climate in Australia is varied and ranges from topical to sub alpine. Australia is also the oldest landmass on earth and the most eroded of all continents, the nearby island state of Tasmania being the exception. This vast landmass is also the most stable of all continents, with few major fault lines.

National Parks and Reserves

Australia has more than 500 national parks - nonurban protected wilderness areas of environmental or natural importance. Each state defines and runs its own national parks, but the principle is the same throughout Australia. National parks include rainforests, vast tracts of empty outback, strips of coastal dune land and long, rugged mountain ranges.


The expanse of the island continent embraces a variety of ecosystems: dynamic interactions of the physical environment and living organisms. Tropical rainforests and wetlands are found in the north of Australia, as are offshore coral reefs; eucalypt forests dominate in the south-east and south west; and deserts and arid lands feature in the vast centre.


The Australian landmass is one of the most ancient on earth. The sea has kept it cut off from other continents for more than 50 million years, and its various indigenous animals have experienced an unusually long, uninterrupted period of evolution in isolation.


Australia's characteristic vegetation began to take shape about 55 million years ago when Australia broke from the super continent of Gondwanaland. At this time, Australia was completely covered by cool-climate rainforest, but as the continent drifted towards warmer climes, it gradually dried out, the rainforests retreated, plants like eucalypts and wattles (acacias) took over and grasslands expanded, resulting in the distinctive habitats found today.