Carbonatites are carbonate-dominated igneous rocks derived by low-degree partial melting of metasomatized mantle, although the geodynamic processes responsible for their emplacement into the crust are disputed. Current models favor either reactivation of lithospheric structures in response to plate movements, or the impingement of mantle plumes. Geochronology provides a means of testing these models, but constraining the age of carbonatites and related metasomatic events is rarely straightforward. We use in situ U-Th-Pb analysis of monazite by SHRIMP to constrain the emplacement age and hydrothermal history of the rare earth element-bearing Gifford Creek Carbonatite Complex in Western Australia, which has been linked to plume magmatism at ca. 1075 Ma. Monazite in carbonatites and related metasomatic rocks (fenites) from the carbonatite complex dates the initial emplacement of the carbonatite at 1361 ± 10 Ma (n = 22, MSWD = 0.91). The complex was subjected to multiple stages of magmatic/hydrothermal overprinting from ca. 1300 Ma to 900 Ma during later regional tectonothermal events. Carbonatite emplacement at ca. 1360 Ma appears to be an isolated igneous event in the region, and occurred about 300 million years before intrusion of the ca. 1075 Ma Warakurna large igneous province, thus precluding a genetic connection. The Gifford Creek Carbonatite Complex occurs within a major crustal suture, and probably formed in response to reactivation of this suture during plate reorganization. Our study demonstrates the veracity of monazite geochronology in determining the magmatic and hydrothermal histories of a carbonatite complex, critical for evaluating competing geodynamic models for carbonatites. The approach involving in situ SHRIMP U-Th-Pb dating of monazite from a wide spectrum of rocks in a carbonatite complex is best suited to establishing the intrusive age and hydrothermal history of carbonatites.