Sands of the Great Victoria Desert, south-central Australia, can be divided into three main groups on the basis of their physical and chemical characteristics (colour, grainsize parameters, mineralogy of heavy-mineral suites, quartz oxygen isotopic composition, zircon U-Pb ages). The groups occupy the western, central and eastern Great Victoria Desert respectively, boundaries between them corresponding approximately to changes in the underlying rocks associated with the Yilgarn Craton to Officer Basin to Arckaringa Basin. Several lines of evidence suggest derivation of the sands mainly from local bedrock with very little subsequent aeolian transport. Ultimate protosources for the sands, each in order of importance, are: western Great Victoria Desert-Yilgarn Craton, Albany-Fraser Orogen, Musgrave Complex; central Great Victoria Desert-Musgrave Complex; eastern Great Victoria Desert-Gawler and Curnamona Blocks, Adelaide Geosyncline, Musgrave Complex. Sediment from the Adelaide Geosyncline includes in addition an 'exotic' component from Palaeozoic sedimentary rocks probably derived mainly from Antarctica. Sediment transport of several hundred kilometres from these protosources to the sedimentary basins was dominantly by fluvial, not aeolian, means. Post-Tertiary aeolian transport or reworking has been minimal, serving only to shape sand eroded from underlying sedimentary rocks or residual products of local basement weathering into the current dunes.