Australian society is secular and citizens are entitled the freedom to observe any faith so long as its practises do not break the law. As religion is regarded as a personal matter of preference, Australians tend not to discuss it public or explicitly with those whom they do not know very well. Conversations about faith are still welcome, but it is generally unappreciated when others try to promote their faith or speak defensively about it (including atheism). Similarly, preaching in social conversation is often seen as irritating and self-righteous. People may choose not to identify themselves as a religious person (particularly in the workplace) to keep distinctions between their private life and public life.
The religious and spiritual landscape of Australia is diverse and changing. There is no official national religion, but Christianity has been the dominant faith since colonisation. Though Christianity is in steady decline among Australians, 61% of the population still identified with it in the 2011 census. The largest Christian denominations were Catholics (25%) and Anglicans (17.1%).
Australia has always had broad representation of non-Christian faiths, however it was not until the 1970’s and the abolition of the White Australia policy that the numbers began to shift significantly. The 2011 census recorded over 120 different religious denominations, each with 250 or more followers. The larger non-Christian groups included Buddhists (2.5%), Muslims (2.2%) and Hindus (1.3%).
Hinduism is the fastest growing religion, correlating with increased migration from India. However, the fastest growing category is ‘no religion’. 22.3% of Australians identified as non-religious and further 2 million people did not state an answer, meaning nearly 32% of the population indicated no religious affiliation on the census.
Despite census figures indicating almost 70% of the Australian population identify with a religion, active participation and observance is not as high. When asked about attendance at religious services (other than weddings and funerals) in the 2012 World Values Survey, 17% indicated they attended more than once a month. A 2008 Gallup poll published that nearly 70% of Australians regard religion as “having no importance” in their daily life.
The decline in the popularity of religion can be seen in the changes in one of its institutions – marriage. The choice of celebrants has significantly shifted towards a preference of civil servants. Ministers of religions performed 96.2% of all marriages in 1902 and 48.7% in 1999. However, they only performed 27.4% of marriages in 2013.
Nevertheless, religion remains important for a significant number of Australians. The current trend shows that older Australians are more likely to believe in God. The World Values Survey in 2012 found 64% of Australians reported believing in a “God”, whilst 33% believed in “Hell”. Religious institutions also play a large role in society. For example, almost 40% of school children attend private school – most of which have a religious affiliation. Many private hospitals have also been established upon religious foundations.
Australian Aboriginal Spirituality
In the 2011 census, 7,361 Australians indicated that they practised Australian Aboriginal traditional religions. Prior to European settlement the Aborigines and the Torres Strait Islanders had developed a range of spiritual practises and religions that reflected the diversity of the people. Although beliefs and cultural practices varied significantly, all groups shared in a common world-view that the land and other natural phenomena possess living souls. Generally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people understand their traditional spirituality in a holistic sense. It is comprehended in a way that is not institutionalised. Spirituality provides a link to the land, sea and air that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait people believe confirms their Indigenous identity.
Population24,188,934 [Sep 2016 est.]0.33% of World Population
Languages Spoken at HomeEnglish (81%)Mandarin (1.7%)Italian (1.5%)Arabic (1.4%)Cantonese (1.3%)Other (13.4%)
ReligionsChristianity (61.1%)subdirectory_arrow_right Catholic (25.3%)subdirectory_arrow_right Anglican (17.1%)subdirectory_arrow_right Uniting Church (5%)subdirectory_arrow_right Presbyterian and Reformed (2.8%)subdirectory_arrow_right Other Christian (11%)
No Religion (23.9%) Islam (3.2%) Buddhism (2.5%) Hinduism (1.3%) Other (1.2%)
AncestriesEnglish (33.7%)Australian (33%)Irish (9.7%)Scottish (8.3%)Italian (4.3%)German (4.2%)Chinese (4%)Indian (1.8%)
Power Distance 36 Individualism 90 Masculinity 61 Uncertainty Avoidance 51 Long Term Orientation 21 Indulgence 71 What's this?
Population669,000 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders [2011 est.]3% of Australian Population
DiasporaMajor Cities: 233,000Inner Regional Australia: 147,700Outer Regional Australia: 146,100Remote Australia: 51,300Very Remote Australia: 91,600[2011 est.]
LanguagesThere were over 250 Indigenous Australian language groups at the time of European settlement. Roughly 120 of those lanuages are still spoken whilst around 160 are thought to be extinct.
Population6.6 million [2014 est.]28.2% of Australia's total population
Country of BirthUnited Kingdom (20.8%)New Zealand (9.1%)China (6%)India (5.6%)Vietnam (3.5%)Philippines (3.2%)South Africa (2.8%)Malaysia (2.2%)Germany (2%)Born elsewhere (41.2%)
Fastest Growing Migrant PopulationsIndiaChinaThailandIraqPhilippinesKoreaSouth AfricaSri LankaIrelandMalaysia[2011 est.]