Territorians are reporting cracked footpaths and shaking buildings after a magnitude 5.7 earthquake rocked the southern region overnight.

The epicentre of the quake was just 40 kilometres from the Aboriginal community of Ernabella.

Les Smith from the Kulgera Roadhouse said locals were shaken awake by the tremors.

"We've only got a couple of cracks actually in our cement paths going over towards the rooms," Mr Smith said.

"One of the local blokes who came (out) of his room, he said he saw a couple of the staff quarters shaking, so we'd better bolt them down."

The shaking has caught the interest of seismologists, because the area had a similar quake a year ago, but, before that, it had gone decades without one being recorded.

Seismologist Spiro Spiliopoulos from Geoscience Australia said the quake hit just before midnight, about 315 kilometres southwest of Alice Springs.

He said Ernabella suffered an earthquake of a similar size in March last year.

"We had aftershocks following the Ernabella (earthquake), and, likewise, we'd expect to have aftershocks from this one normally but they're typically much smaller than the big one and just last for days and weeks after the earthquake," Mr Spiliopoulos said.

He said, before these two similar-sized events, it had been more than 50 years since a quake was recorded in the area.

"It's unusual to get two large earthquakes within 40 kilometres of each other within Australia," Mr Spiliopoulos said.

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