The Ecological Society of Australia was founded in 1959, and the Society’s journal was first published in 1976. To examine how research published in the society’s journal has changed over this time, we used text mining to quantify themes and trends in the body of work published by the Australian Journal of Ecology and Austral Ecology from 1976-2019. We used topic models to identify 30 ‘topics’ within 2,778 full-text articles in 246 issues of the journal, followed by mixed modelling to identify topics with above-average or below-average popularity in terms of the number of publications or citations that they contain. We found high interdecadal turnover in research topics, with an early emphasis on highly specific ecosystems or processes giving way to a modern emphasis on community, spatial and fire ecology, invasive species, and statistical modelling. Despite an early focus on Australian research, papers discussing South American ecosystems are now among the fastest-growing and most frequently-cited topics in the journal. Topics that were growing fastest in publication rates were not always the same as those with high citation rates. Our results provide a systematic breakdown of the topics that Austral Ecology authors and editors have chosen to research, publish and cite through time, providing a valuable window into the historical and emerging foci of the journal.