This paper assesses remotely sensed near-surface soil moisture over Australia, derived from the passive microwave Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer - Earth Observing System (AMSR-E) instrument. Soil moisture fields generated by the AMSR-E soil moisture retrieval algorithm developed at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VUA) in collaboration with NASA have been used in this study, following a preliminary investigation of several other retrieval algorithms. The VUA-NASA AMSR-E near-surface soil moisture product has been compared to in-situ soil moisture data from 12 locations in the Murrumbidgee and Goulburn Monitoring Networks, both in southeast Australia. Temporally, the AMSR-E soil moisture has a strong association to ground-based soil moisture data, with typical correlations of greater than 0.8 and typical RMSD less than 0.03 vol/vol (for a normalized and filtered AMSR-E timeseries). Continental-scale spatial patterns in the VUA-NASA AMSR-E soil moisture have also been visually examined by comparison to spatial rainfall data. The AMSR-E soil moisture has a strong correspondence to precipitation data across Australia: in the short term, maps of the daily soil moisture anomaly show a clear response to precipitation events, and in the longer term, maps of the annual average soil moisture show the expected strong correspondence to annual average precipitation. Crown Copyright © 2008.