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Topography is a term that refers to the characteristics of land in terms of slope, elevation and

orientation. The study of topography is crucial in gaining an understanding of the land and its uses. A
landform is an individual topographic feature, which can be as minor as a cliff or a sand dune, or as
major as a peninsula or a mountain range.
The Australian continent, with the exception of Antarctica, is the lowest, flattest and driest of the seven
continents. The continent can be broken into four major landform regions: the Coastal Plains, the
Eastern Highlands, the Central Lowlands and the Western Plateau. These landform regions have
been created by movements in the Earths crust, river erosion and changes in climate and sea level.
!ithin these major areas, there are smaller topographic regions with distinctive landforms.
Coastal Plains
The "oastal #lains are a narrow strip of land along the eastern coast of Australia that extends from
$ueensland to %ictoria. This area is flat and has relatively high rainfall. &t is therefore well suited to
building large cities. Australias largest cities, including 'ydney, (elbourne and )risbane, are all
located along the coastal plains.
Eastern Highlands
The Eastern *ighlands, also known as the Great Dividing Range, are a series of hills, valleys and
mountains located to the west of the coastal plains. The range extends north to the "ape +ork #eninsula
in $ueensland and south to Tasmania. The Eastern *ighlands are called the ,reat -ividing .ange
because they divide rivers in $ueensland, /ew 'outh !ales and %ictoria into eastward0flowing and
westward0flowing rivers.
The mountains and hills in the Eastern *ighlands were created through a number of processes. (ost
were created through folding and faulting. 1olded mountains are created when two tectonic plates
collide with one another, causing the land to deform, while fault mountains are created when the crust
breaks into pieces, allowing some parts to be uplifted. 'ome of the mountains are volcanic, such as the
!arrumbungle .ange in central /ew 'outh !ales and the ,lass *ouse (ountains in northern
$ueensland. The Eastern *ighlands are also home to a number of gorges or valleys with cliff walls.
These gorges were carved into soft areas of rock by streams and rivers.
The Eastern *ighlands are the highest part of Australia. Australias highest point, (ount 2oscius3ko in
southern /ew 'outh !ales, is located in the Eastern *ighlands. The Eastern *ighlands are tall enough
to affect the weather in the rest of their region. They cause rain to fall upon the coastal plains and keep
the central lowlands dry. "ompared with mountain ranges in the rest of the world, however, the Eastern
*ighlands are not very high at all. (ount 2oscius3ko is less than half the height of (ount )lanc, the
highest mountain in Europe, and four times smaller than (ount Everest, the highest mountain in the
Central Lowlands
The "entral 4owlands account for 56 percent of the continent and are characterised by extremely flat,
low0lying plains of sedimentary rock. The sedimentary rocks of the central lowlands were created by
sediments or silt and biological matter, deposited when the inner part of Australia was covered by an
inland sea millions of years ago.
The "entral 4owlands region stretches from Australias largest river basin, the (urray0-arling, through
the ,reat Artesian )asin, extending north to the ,ulf of "arpentaria. The ,reat Artesian )asin is one of
the largest artesian groundwater basins in the world, and covers 7 877 999 s:uare kilometres ;km
<. =ne
of the most significant landforms in the "entral 4owlands is 4ake Eyre, the lowest point of the
Australian continent, sitting 76 metres below sea level and spreading over almost 79 999 km
. The
lowest landforms of the continent are found in this region, with an average height of less than 599
The "entral 4owlands also receive the least amount of rain a year out of all the regions, less than 756
millimetres per year, and contain large deserts and salt plans. The 'turt 'tony -esert ;5> 869km
<, the
'tr3elecki -esert ;?9 569km
<, and the 'impson ;78@ 699km
< -esert are all located in the "entral
4owlands. The 'impson contains the worlds largest sand ridge desert. The A90metre high dunes consist
of red sand ridges extending for hundreds of kilometres. The dunes are held in position by vegetation.
Western Plateau
The !estern #lateau topographic region covers approximately one third of the continent, or about 5 899
999 s:uare kilometres. This region of arid land includes significant parts of !estern Australia, 'outh
Australia and the /orthern Territory. The western plateau comprises a massive block of igneous and
metaphori! rock, with some rocks being over A.@ billion years old. The region is regarded as relatively
flat, as the average elevation is less than 699 metres. This is due to erosion, which has affected this
region for millions of years.
There are some mountain ranges located on the !estern #lateau found in areas with erosion0resistant
rocks. 4ocated within the !estern #lateau are the (ac-onnell, (usgrave and 1linders ranges. 1linders
.ange is 'outh Australias largest mountain range, stretching over BA9 kilometres from #ort #irie to
4ake "allabonna. The 1linders .anges began to form around ?99 million years ago due to stretching of
the Earths crust.
There are also numerous plateau", or flat areas of rock, that lie within the region, including the
2imberley #lateau, the #ilbara #lateau and Arnhem 4and. The 2imberley #lateau is located in the
northern part of !estern Australia and spans B5B 678 s:uare kilometres. The !estern #lateau region
also contains a number of gorges, including 'tanley ,orge, "hasm ,orge, 2atherine ,orge and
=rmiston ,orge.
!ithin the !estern #lateau are a number of large, free0standing rocks, including 2ata Tjuta, (t "onnor
and Cluru. Cluru, also referred to as Ayers .ock, is a large sandstone rock formation located in the
/orthern Territory. &t reaches a height of AB@ metres and has a circumference of eight kilometres. The
#itjantjatjara people, an Aboriginal group in the region, named the landmark Cluru and it is of great
spiritual and cultural significance. See image 5
Approximately 89D of the !estern #lateau is composed of deserts. The ,reat %ictoria ;@69 999 km
,ibson ;A79 ?99 km
< and the ,reat 'andy ;B76 999 km
< are just a few of the deserts found in the
region. /umerous salt lakes are found within the !estern #lateau, which signify areas of internal
Drainage #asins
The "entral lowlands can be further divided into three parts based on -rainage )asins. The "arpentania
)asin, in the north is drained by the (itchell, ,ilbert, /orman, 1linders and 4eichhardt rivers. The
4ake Eyre )asin in the dry centre is an inland basin, with the -iamantina, ,eorgina, )arcoo rivers and
"oopers "reek drainage into a large salt lake known as 4ake Eyre. This huge are of salt encrusted land
is sometimes dry and at other times filled with water, depending on rainfall in the catchment area of
rivers. To the south lies the (urray0-arling )asin, in which the great (urry .iver and -arling .iver
join to flow into the ,reat Australian )ight.
7. &dentify the four major land regions.
5. -escribe each of the land regions in your own words using the table below. Try to focus on
what kind of landforms are found in each area, height, distance.
A. =utline the three drainage basins found in the "entral 4owlands.