Deserts in Australian Culture

Deserts in Australian Culture


The desert is the great heart of Australia and yet, most Australians have never been near one. The reality is, there are seven Australian deserts.  Some people think of deserts with affection and awe and others with dread. Yet most people have never been to an Australian desert; we largely nestle in the coastal fringe. We stand on the coastline marveling at the ocean views, failing to even comprehend what is behind us.

Waiting in the deserts of Australia are majestic sunsets, and nights with clear stars where the immensity touches the soul. The power of the desert is something humans have known for thousands of years but have lost in the concrete busyness of modern urban life.

church in desert
What motivated Jesus to spend 40 days and nights of solitude, prayer, and fasting in the wilderness? This desert landscape was largely uninhabitable and was full of dangers for anyone who dared to venture in it for long.

Lent is a period of 40 days in the Christian calendar, which is a time of reflection and preparation before the celebration of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians remember Jesus’ sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for forty days.

Wilderness equals desert.

When the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt, they wandered 40 years in the wilderness.  Moses went to the mountain of the Lord in the Sinai wilderness and stayed there for 40 days and nights in prayer and fasting. Elijah journeyed through the wilderness without any food for 40 days. Jesus was without any food in the wilderness for 40 days.


Revd. Dr Ian Robinson is a fascinating mixture of philosopher, theologian, sociologist and spiritual guide. Personally, I have known Ian since 1973.  Ian has completed a PhD on Australian deserts and has traveled across all seven deserts in Australia in one trip.  It was deeply transforming for all involved. Since then Ian has researched, written and spoken about deserts in many settings.

Ian has led many “tours” into Australian deserts with the aim of developing an Australian desert spirituality.   For the people of Israel, the desert was a place of testing, encounter, and renewal. Ian uses his own experience to show how people can connect with the desert in different ways and stages. In addition to developing one’s sense of place, he encourages a state of wonder about the desert. Ian challenges us to journey physically and spiritually from the edges to the heartland, from superficiality to depth.

Ian’s books:

This Thirsty Heart: A journey in the deserts of Australia

If Anyone Thirsts: Biblical Spirituality from the Desert


If you are interested in learning more, or about pilgrimages into Australian Deserts, you can go to:

Koora Retreat

Desert Journeys

Stephen Hall
Stephen Hall
Lives in Perth, Western Australia.

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