Pollen, microfaunal and sedimentological evidence from the top 20 m of sediment in a closed volcanic crater lake is used to construct a detailed record of vegetation and environmental conditions through the Holocene and a substantial part of the Late Pleistocene. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the sequence covers tha last 51,000 yr or so. High lake-levels and the presence of forest or woodland vegetation indicate that the Holocene and the basal few thousand years of the record experienced wet and warm conditions. The earliest period was succeeded by a long phase of lower but variable moisture levels before more arid conditions resulted in the replacement of forest and woodland by herbaceous vegetation and frequent lake drying. Periods of slight amelioration occurred between about 27,000 and 19,000 and before 15,000 radiocarbon yr ago. Maximum aridity occurred between about 19,000 and 10,000 yr B.P., a period incorporating the height of the last glacial. During the Pleistocene, the lake became gradually more saline but has been fresh during the Holocene, even under low lake-levels. An increase in charcoal values is recorded, probably around 20,000 years ago, and this could have resulted from increased burning as a result of the activities of Aboriginal people. This may have also caused a change in understorey vegetation from one composed largely of Asteraceae, to grassland. The record is compared with others from southeastern Australia and there is good correspondence through the last 20,000 or 30,000 yr but, before this, problems of dating and the condensed nature of most sequences prevent detailed correlation.