Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Major Landform regions of Australia        See also                                                               

The Australian continent is broadly divided into 4 major landform regions, each of which is comprised of smaller-scale constituent landform regions - eastern highlands, central lowlands, western plateau and the coastal plains.

The Eastern Highlands, the Great Divide, also called the Great Diving Range, runs for about 4,000 km from the tip of Cape York to the Grampian Ranges in Victoria. It divides the runoff into eastern and western-flowing rivers. East of the ranges the rivers empty into the Pacific Ocean. To the west the rivers tend to be centrally draining, often ending in ephemeral salt lakes. Erosion of the Great Divide has formed the Great Escarpment on their eastern, seaward, side. About half of all Australian rivers run inland, many ending is salt lakes, that are mostly dry.

The Central Lowlands, from the Murray-Darling Basin and north to the Gulf Of Carpentaria, are mostly flat, with occasional higher ground in the form of desert ranges such as the Macdonnell Ranges and the Musgrave Ranges. Also found here are a number of deserts, Sturt's Stony Desert, Strzelecki Desert and Simpson Desert, the world's largest sand ridge desert. The lowest point on the Australian continent, Lake Eyre, is also situated in this region. It also includes inselbergs such as Uluru and Kata Tjuta. About 38 % of the Australian continent is less than 200 m above sea level (so far), much of it in the Central lowlands.

The Western Plateau includes much of Western Australia, and parts of South Australia and the Northern Territory. This is the oldest part of the continent, the rocks being some of the most ancient in Australia, having been formed in the very early stages of the solidification of the Earth. They have mostly been exposed to the forces of erosion for almost the entire history of the Earth. Some of the plateaus in this region are the Kimberley, Hamersley and Yilgarn. These plateaus are partly based on cratons such as the Yilgarn Craton and Pilbara Craton. As subsidence occurred, much of the area became depocentres for the mostly inward-flowing rivers, resulting in the flat topography of most of the area. The inselbergs like Uluru and Kata Tjuta gained their prominence in the landscape by the surrounding ground surface being eroded to form a flat plain, leaving the more erosion-resistant rocks of the inselbergs.

Along the east coast, from Cape York to Victoria, the area between the Great Escarpment and the sea, is mostly in the form of a flat coastal plain.

Sources & Further reading


Australian Landforms and their History


Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated 19/04/2011


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