Australia is an ancient continent with an interesting geological history that includes a recent major shift in its position, both globally and compared with neighbouring land masses. This has led to a great deal of confusion over many years about the origins of the Australian biomes. The plant fossil record is now clarifying this, and it is clear that the ancient Gondwanan rainforests that covered Australia while it was still part of that supercontinent contained many of the elements of the modern vegetation. However, major climatic sifting, along with responses to other factors, including soil nutrient levels, disturbance regimes, atmospheric CO2 levels, fire frequency and intensity, glaciations and the arrival of humans, have had profound impacts on the Australian vegetation, which today reflects the sum of all these factors and more. The origins of Australian vegetation and its present–day management cannot be properly understood without an appreciation of this vast history, and the fossil record has a vital role to play in maintaining the health of this continent's vegetation into the future.