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Religion in Australia - statistics & facts

Australia is a secular country with a diverse migrant population and over 120 faiths, yet Australia has traditionally been a majority Christian country. Despite Australia’s diversity and secular constitution, Christian belief systems and Anglo-Saxon traditions continue to have a noticeable influence on many aspects of the national political, educational, and social identity. However, this dominant Christian identity appears to be shifting. In the most recent 2016 Australian Census, just over half of all Australians identified with a Christian faith, which was around 10 percent less than the share of Christians just five years earlier. Catholicism, Anglican, and the Uniting Church continue to have a strong community of followers but contemporary values and other religious influences are also making their mark on Australian society.

In contrast to the decline of Christianity in Australia, many emerging religions are growing in numbers. Islam and Buddhism are the second and third largest non-Christian religions in Australia and although these communities remain comparatively small, they are growing in size. This increasing religious diversity can be attributed in part to recent immigration from the Middle East and Asia, which has also added to the population of Sikhs and Hindus in Australia. Along with their faith, migrants have also introduced many celebrations and cultural practices to the broader Australian community. These events include Chinese New Year, Diwali, and Eid which have become well established celebrations in migrant communities, with an increasing appeal to the broader community.

While non-Christian religions have experienced minor but steady growth over the years, it is the proportion of people who do not identify with a religion which has seen the most notable change in the last three Australian censuses. In 2016 just over 30 percent of Australians selected ‘no religion’ on the optional question on religious orientation. This has led some social commentators to declare that Australians are ‘losing their religion’, but even with church attendance remaining relatively steady, it does in fact appear that religion is becoming a less important aspect in the lives of many Australians. This has been a common trend of many economically developed countries.

As more Australians are stepping away from religion, religiously affiliated schools, charities, and social welfare organizations are still commonplace and generally cater to the whole community, regardless of religious belief. Religious charities represent the largest share of the Australian charity sector, with some of the biggest players being the Catholic affiliated St Vincent De Paul and the Christian organization, the Salvation Army. In the school system, government run schools remain secular, however Catholic and independent schools, the majority of which are affiliated with a religion, are also recipients of government support to varying extents. In recent years more schools of other religious denominations have been established to cater for new migrant communities and religious converts, as such, Islamic schools have seen some considerable growth.

Australia’s great diversity and integration of other cultures and religions is unfortunately not without its share of conflict. Racial and cultural prejudice does exist, and a recent study indicated that this prejudice is often disproportionately weighted on the Muslim community. Ethical and moral issues have also produced significant differences of opinion amongst Australians, such as the 2017 postal survey on same-sex marriage which saw 61.6 percent of Australians vote in favor of gay and lesbian couples being able to marry. The subject of euthanasia, however, is still hotly debated on religious, ethical, and moral grounds.

Interesting statistics

In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 30 most important statistics relating to "Religion in Australia".


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