The Ord River, Victoria River District and Sturt Plateau region
covers around 270,000 square kilometres of the country south of
Katherine, straddling the border between the Northern Territory and
Western Australia. To the west it features much of the Ord River
catchment and the spectacular rocky bluffs characteristic of the
Kimberley, such as the Bungle Bungle area, its central parts
feature the Victoria River catchment, while its eastern end is
dominated by the Sturt Plateau and the flatter grassy plains of the
Barkly. The southern parts grade into the Tanami Desert.
The major land use is cattle grazing and in the western areas
there are significant national parks and horticulture. The district
supports some of the longest settled and most successful grazing
enterprises in northern Australia. However, the region has not
avoided problems of land degradation, and over several decades
governments have supported local research to improve sustainable
The VRD-Sturt region, like most of the tropical savannas, has a
tropical climate with hot, wet humid summers and sunny, warm, dry
winters and comes under very little coastal climatic
influence—it is less humid and cloudy than coastal areas. Wet
season conditions are generally hot with average maximum
temperatures reaching 36oC. Annual rainfall totals range
from less than 600 mm in the south to around twice that in the
north. The dry season is more prolonged than the wet season and is
dominated by the south-east trade winds with an average minimum of
about 12o C.
This area is defined by the biogeographic regions Victoria
Bonaparte, Sturt Plateau and the eastern bulk of the Ord-Victoria
Plains. For more information on the biogeographic regions on this
map go to ERIN's Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia
(IBRA), web link below.
The population figures below are based on the Australian Bureau
of Statistics censuses of 2001 which was conducted in early
August of that year. These more standardised Urban Centre and
Locality figures replace earlier ones on this site based on
Statistical Local Areas and Census Collection Districts.
The VRD-Sturt Plateau region is one of the most sparsely
populated in the tropical savannas, with a scattering of relatively
small towns and communities.
Table is based on 2001 Census Urban Centre and
Locality figures from the Australian Bureau of
The major land use in the region is pastoralism, with lesser
areas of Aboriginal land, nature reserves and vacant crown land, as
well as significant blocks of Defence Force land. The southern
parts of the region border very large areas of Aboriginal land in
the Tanami Desert.
The VRD-Sturt region has been the focus of a major regional
management study by the Tropical Savannas CRC. Researchers have
been looking at the region's plant and animal life, impacts of
grazing and fire on different ecological communities and on
pastures, and the changing nature of the tree/grass continuum in
the district. Aspects of this research are available by going to
the topics 'Grazing', 'Fire' and 'Plants and Animals'.
For more detailed information on this region click on the topic
menu on the left. You can also go to the Savanna Map Maker to make
maps of the VRD region. Link on this page.