This article provides a review of the study and geomorphology of Australia's fluvial systems by offering comment on the development, concerns and future of the subject. Trends in the history of fluvial landform studies in Australia are traced from the observations and comments of the early explorers and visiting scientists through to the emergence and growth of fluvial geomorphology as a study discipline. Subsequent development of the idea of a distinctive geomorphology of Australian fluvial systems that often contrast with Anglo-American observations is outlined and illustrated with particular reference to fluvial studies in south-east Australia. Key features of the Australian setting include low long-term denudation rates, the absence of extensive Quaternary glaciation and the predominance of low gradient fluvial systems over much of the continent. Some of the most important themes in contemporary Australian fluvial research are discussed and include long-term landscape evolution, thresholds and riverine response to secular trends in climate, Quaternary environmental change, arid-environment systems, bedrock channels and applied approaches to study. Consideration is also given to present deficiencies in research and to future priorities. Particular attention is focused on the need firstly to collect additional process data, secondly to shift the bias in research away from south-east Australia, and thirdly to develop links between fluvial process and alluvial stratigraphy/chronology. It is concluded that, given the variety of hydrogeomorphological environments in Australia and the diversity of approaches to study, ongoing research will provide further indications of the unusual nature of many of the continent's fluvial systems. © 1995, Sage Publications. All rights reserved.