Our reconstructed history of Lake Eyre provides the first continuous continental proxy record of Australian monsoon intensity over the past 150 k.y. This continental record's broad correspondence to the marine isotope record demonstrates that this very large catchment, with its hydrology dependent on a planetary-scale climate element, responds to Milankovitch-scale climate forcing. Abrupt transitions from dry phases to wet phases (ca. 125 and 12 ka) coincide with Northern Hemisphere winter insolation minima rather than Southern Hemisphere summer insolation maxima, indicating that Northern Hemisphere insolation exerts a dominant control over the intensity of the Australian monsoon. Stratigraphic and dating uncertainties of other wet phases preclude conclusive correlation to specific insolation signals but, within the uncertainties, are consistent with Northern Hemisphere forcing. Regardless of the hemispheric forcing, the low intensity of the early Holocene Australian monsoon—by comparison with the last interglacial and particularly the last high-level lacustrine event at 65–60 ka when all forcing elements were modest— is an enigma that can be explained by a change in boundary conditions within Australia.