The data identify the clearest and most synchronous climatic response at the time of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) (21 ± 3 ka), with unambiguous cooling recorded in the ocean, and evidence of glaciation in the highlands of tropical New Guinea, southeast Australia and Tasmania. Many terrestrial records suggest drier conditions, but with the timing of inferred snowmelt, and changes to the rainfall/runoff relationships, driving higher river discharge at the LGM. In contrast, the deglaciation is a time of considerable south-east to north-west variation across the region. Warming was underway in all regions by 17 ka. Post-glacial sea level rise and its associated regional impacts have played an important role in determining the magnitude and timing of climate response in the north-west of the continent in contrast to the southern latitudes. No evidence for cooling during the Younger Dryas chronozone is evident in the region, but the Antarctic cold reversal clearly occurs south of Australia. The Holocene period is a time of considerable climate variability associated with an intense monsoon in the tropics early in the Holocene, giving way to a weakened monsoon and an increasingly El Niño-dominated ENSO to the present. The influence of ENSO is evident throughout the southeast of Australia, but not the southwest. This climate history provides a template from which to assess the regionality of climate events across Australia and make comparisons beyond our region.