Using the latest dating techniques, scientists at the University of Melbourne established that, on average, the small volcanoes dotted from western Victoria to South Australia erupted every 2000 years. The last eruption at Mount Gambier was more than 5000 years ago and Bernie Joyce, of the university's school of earth sciences, said that, statistically speaking, we were due for another.

Presenting his findings at the International Congress of Geodesy and Geophysics in Melbourne yesterday, Professor Joyce said the most likely places for eruptions would be around Colac, Port Fairy, Portland and Mount Gambier.

He said eruptions close to Melbourne or Geelong were not out of the question either, as the Australian tectonic plate continued to move north at five centimetres a year. ''The plate is hitting up against PNG, lifting the southern margin upwards. This allows magma to move upwards towards the surface,'' Professor Joyce said.

The volcanoes that dot the landscape between Melbourne and Mount Gambier are monogenetic volcanoes - once-off volcanoes that deliver relatively small eruptions. There are 40 alone between Melbourne and Bacchus Marsh, with the last volcano to erupt in Victoria being Mount Napier, south of Hamilton.

Volcanoes in Victoria