Northern Australia is characterised by diverse topography, from forests, lagoons, rivers, mangroves, flood plains, rocky escarpments, coastline and islands. One of the most remarkable and substantial features is Arnhem Land, which is located in the Northern Territory bounded on the west by Kakadu National Park, the north by the Arafura Sea, the east by the Gulf of Carpentaria and in the south by the Roper River. It is a vast area covering nearly 100,000 square kilometres.
The centre of Australia is mostly desert landscape dominated in popular culture by Uluru (Ayers Rock). The desert region, which extends into Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory, is varied, and punctuated by waterholes, lakes, areas of grasslands and mountainous regions, with Alice Springs as the geographical centre. By nature, much art of the desert was transient and ephemeral, created through iconographic markings in the sand and painted markings on the body for ceremonial purposes; the meanings of the often secret and sacred imagery is generally known only to those initiated.
Covering West Australia’s ‘Top End’, the Kimberley region embraces an area over 400,000 square kilometres, taking in all the country north of the vast spaces of the Great Sandy and Tanami Deserts. Situated on the west coast is Broome, famed ‘Port of Pearls’; Derby, ‘Gateway to the Ranges’, which borders the eastern margin of King Sound. On the eastern margin of the Kimberley, from north to south are situated Wyndham, Kununurra, and Halls Creek, all a short distance from the Northern Territory border and the mighty Victoria River Basin.
The region of Queensland is home to diverse Aboriginal communities and cultures that encompass hundreds of language groups. There are varied and dramatic environments – from the lush rainforest to low savannah, saltpans and mangrove deltas – with complex seasonal patterns. The colonial history of Queensland differs in many aspects to the rest of Australia, but it retains some of its most dire consequences: influenza, mining, pastorialism and ultimately, the death and displacement of Indigenous peoples. Despite this, many communities have retained their unique cultural and artistic traditions, including Lockhart River; 800 kilometres north of Cairns, and the Torres Strait Islands; between Cape York Peninsula and Papua New Guinea.