Australian Culture



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, 52% of the population still identified with it in the 2016 census. The largest Christian denominations were Catholics (23%) and Anglicans (13%). 

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 2016 census recorded over 100 different religious denominations, each with 250 or more followers. Of the 8.2% of the population that follows a religion other than christianity, Islam (2.6%) and Buddhism (2.4%) have the largest following.

Hinduism is the fastest growing religion, correlating with increased migration from India. However, the fastest growing category is ‘no religion’. 30% of Australians identified as non-religious in the 2016 census. However, this response was most common among younger Australians aged 18-34.

Despite census figures indicating 60% 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.
  • Population
    [2016 census - Estimated resident population]
  • Average Age
    [2016 census]
  • Language Spoken at Home
    English (72.7%)
    Mandarin (2.5%)
    Arabic (1.4%)
    Cantonese (1.2%)
    Vietnamese (1.2%)
    More than 300 languages identified in total
    [2016 census]
  • Religions
    Christianity (51.6%)
    subdirectory_arrow_right Catholic (22.6%)
    subdirectory_arrow_right Anglican (13.3%)
    subdirectory_arrow_right Other Christian (16.3%)
    No Religion (30.1%)
    Islam (2.6%)
    Buddhism (2.4%)
    Hinduism (1.9%)
    Other (1.3%)
    [2016 census]
    More than 100 religions identified in total
  • Ancestries
    English (33.7%)
    Australian (33%)
    Irish (9.7%)
    Scottish (8.3%)
    Italian (4.3%)
    German (4.2%)
    Chinese (4%)
    Indian (1.8%)
    More than 300 ancestries identified in total
  • Cultural Dimensions
    Power Distance 36
    Individualism 90
    Masculinity 61
    Uncertainty Avoidance 51
    Long Term Orientation 21
    Indulgence 71
    What's this?
Indigenous Australia
  • Population
    2.7% of Australian population
    [2016 census]
  • Diaspora
    Major Cities: 233,000
    Inner Regional Australia: 147,700
    Outer Regional Australia: 146,100
    Remote Australia: 51,300
    Very Remote Australia: 91,600
    [2011 est.]
  • Languages
    There 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.
  • Average Age
    [2016 census]
Migrant Australia
  • Population
    6,150,197 people born overseas
    26.4% of Australian population
    [2016 census]
  • Top Overseas Birthplaces
    United Kingdom (4.6%)
    New Zealand (2.2%)
    China (2.2%)
    India (1.9%)
    Philippines (1.0%)
    Vietnam (0.9%)
    Italy (0.7%)
    South Africa (0.7%)
    Malaysia (0.6%)
    Sri Lanka (0.5%)
    Born elsewhere (11.1%)
    [2016 census]
  • Fastest Growing Migrant Populations
    By Population Change
    subdirectory_arrow_right China (+190,586)
    subdirectory_arrow_right India (+160,027)
    subdirectory_arrow_right Philippines (+61,153)
    subdirectory_arrow_right New Zealand (+35,068)
    subdirectory_arrow_right Vietnam (+34,316)
    subdirectory_arrow_right Pakistan (+31,692)
    subdirectory_arrow_right Nepal (+30,119)
    subdirectory_arrow_right South Korea (+24,238)
    subdirectory_arrow_right Iran (+23,658)
    subdirectory_arrow_right Sri Lanka (+23,437)
    By Percentage Change
    subdirectory_arrow_right Mongolia (+240.5%)
    subdirectory_arrow_right Bhutan (+142.4%)
    subdirectory_arrow_right Nepal (+122.3%)
    subdirectory_arrow_right South Sudan (+120.9%)
    subdirectory_arrow_right Pakistan (+104.9%)
    subdirectory_arrow_right Brazil (+90.4%)
    subdirectory_arrow_right Nigeria (+87.8%)
    subdirectory_arrow_right Qatar (+84.3%)
    subdirectory_arrow_right Syria (+82.6%)
    subdirectory_arrow_right Iran (+68.7%)
    [2016 census]
Where do we get our statistics?
Country AU Flag