Types of religion in Australia

Australia as an Island continent lies between Pacific and Indian oceans. It ranks sixth as world’s largest country by total area with an estimated seven million square kilometers. The country has around 25 Million people in 2019 with a multiracial and multicultural population. The advent of the new millennium had a large influx of people leading to decreasing Australian born residents. New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Middle East, and North Africa led in new arrivals . The 2016 census reported over 35.9 percent Australian ancestries. However, a majority of the respondents identified as English, Scottish, Italian, Australian and Irish. Additionally, the census found that 14 million or 61 percent have a spiritual belief or affiliated to a religion. The census indicated over 120 religious denominations with over 250 or more members. The composition of these religious groups varies from Territories and States.

types of religions in Australia

However, a majority of the respondents identified as English, Scottish, Italian, Australian and Irish. Additionally, the census found that 14 million or 61 percent have a spiritual belief or affiliated to a religion. The census indicated over 120 religious denominations with over 250 or more members. The composition of these religious groups varies from Territories and States.

The diverse collection of people expresses a wide variety of religions with Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism as well as unaffiliated people. Buddhism and non-Christian religion increased over the years due to conversions and immigration flows. According to the census, 52.1 percent of propel classifying as Christians; 22.6 percent Catholics 13.3 Anglicans . The non-Christians religions occupy a proportion of about 8.3 percent of the population. The people without a religion (No-Religion) formed the second largest classification of people. The population is not affiliated to any religion and is common among the young people aged between 18-34 years.  The trend resembles many Western countries that have decreasing church worshiping levels. The church attendance is only 7.5 percent in Europe.

Major Religious Affiliation

Christianity

Christianity is predominant in Australia.  The arrival of free settlers in 1788 led to radical changes to aboriginal Australians. They introduced Scottish Presbyterianism, English Anglicanism and Irish Catholicism. Europeans arrived in missionary caravans that aimed at ‘civilizing’ and spread Christianity to the aboriginal communities. The settlers enacted the Freedom of Religion in 1901 to allow legal equality for the Presbyterians, Methodists, and Catholics. Christianity remained the main religion in the 20th century. However, the proportion dropped from 88 percent in 1996 to about 52 percent by the year 2016.  The number of people identifying themselves as Catholics remained steady at 26 percent since 1996. The proportion dropped to 23 percent in 2016. Similarly, the proportion identifying as Anglicans reduced by half from 33 percent in 1966 to 13 percent in 2016. The proportion that affiliates with other denominations of Christianity experienced significant drop and continues with the downward trend to date.

Other Religions

Australia is predominantly a religious country but also have about a third (7 million) indicated not to belong to any religion. They belong neither to Agnosticism, Humanism nor Atheism beliefs. The number of non-religious has increased by 50 percent from 2011 since the year 2016.   

Other than Christianity, Islam has about 600,000, Buddhist number is estimated at 560,000, Hindus is about 440,300, Sikh is 130, 000 while Judaist is around 90,000. The fastest-growing religion since 2011 is Sikhism at 74 percent while Hinduism came second at 60 percent increase (Australian Bureau of Statics, 2011). According to census 2016, the population of Sikh in Australia grew from 72,000 in 2011 to 130,000 in 2016. It grew at an average age of 14.8 percent.  Majority of the Sikh dwell in Victoria State.

The 2016 census recorded as the fifth largest religion and second fastest growing. Australia experienced a growth rate of 12 percent since 2011. The first number of Hindus entered Australia in the 18 century as traders. They settled in various parts of the country especially the major cities. Presently, there are professional Hindus in various fields such as commerce, engineering, information technology, and medicine. Individuals rise to prominence and popularity such as Kamahl who is a musician. There are about 43 Hindus temple throughout Australia. The first temple, Sri Mandir Temple in Auburn Sydney was built in 1977 to cater for growing needs of Hindu Community.     

Jainism ranks fourth as the fastest growing religion in the country. According to the census, there about a 6,000 and grew are a rate of 7.7% annually. About 95 percent of Jains adherents live primarily state capitals of Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney.  

 

The Humanistic Jewish congregation of Kehilat Koleu came to Melbourne in 2012. It had links with Habonim Dror, a youth Jewish movement. Later in that year, Sidney had a similar congregation named Ayelet HaShachar. The Humanistic Jewish movement has its religion base Nava Tehila in Israel and in the United States of America.

The spiritual beliefs exist in Australia that originated from Middle Eastern religion. They include Zoroastrianism, Mandaean, Baha’i, Druse, and Yezidi. The nature religions include Druidism, Animism, Wiccism, and Paganism. There are Eastern Asia Beliefs are Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto and Ancestor Veneration.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Religious Affiliation

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Religious Affiliation

The Aboriginals are the original inhabitants of Australia. Their history indicates that they migrated into Australia from Asia at least 50, 000 years ago. The mythology records the early practices in humans. Aboriginal mythology indicates that oral traditional practice of Dreamtime.  Before the British settlement, traditional religions were animist as well as ancestral worship tendencies. The practices allowed indigenous Australians with guidance on rules, laws and the community’s social behavior. Various creation stories have different meanings and interpretation among the aboriginal groups. The different groups of aboriginal had their individual language, cultural beliefs, and language. The cultures overlap and evolve over time. Today, the Aboriginal accounts for about 3 percent of the total population. The number of believers in Dreamtime are furthermore far and few between. The major dream spirit among the Aboriginals is the Rainbow Serpent. Other well-known dream spirits include Bunyip and Yowie.   

The census indicated that there were similarities in religious affiliation between non-indigenous and Aboriginal and Strait Islanders. Many of the aboriginals converted into Christianity at 54 percent. The numbers are similar to the proportion of the non-Indigenous population at 55 percent. Only 2 percent of this population adheres to the traditional beliefs. These numbers remained steady over the past two decades. The numbers of Aboriginal indicting not to belong to any religion continues to increase since 2001.  Between the years 2011 and 2016 experienced the largest increase of No-religion proportion among the aboriginal. The numbers shifted significantly from 24 percent to 36 percent. These proportions indicate a higher number compared to changes occurring among the non-indigenous population.

States and Regions where Religions Live

The capital cities have relative proportions of those who identify with no-religion, non-Christians, and Christians. The population of Sydney and Brisbane has about 53 percent of Christians in 2016 compared to other capital cities. The New South Wales and Queensland are the host to an average of 55 percent of Christians. Similarly, Melbourne, New South Wales (10.1 percent) and Victoria (10.6%) is the home to a majority of non-Christians. Surprisingly, Tasmania inhibits the highest proportion of no-religion people at 38 percent. It also has the lowest number of religions apart from Christianity at 2.3 percent. The over half a million people identifying themselves with Islamic religion are concentrated in Melbourne and Sydney. The population comprises of non-practicing cultural Muslims. The Sikhs residing in Australia are mainly found in the state of Victoria.  The immigrants’ patterns of settlement reflect religious composition within states and territories.

The Jainism, Druse, and Mandaean are most urbanized religions of Australia.  About 98 percent of these people live in the capital city. Paganism, Wicca and Aboriginal traditional beliefs are least urbanized with about 20 percent.

Territories and States

Sydney is a clear evidence of growing diversity in Australia. It is the largest city with a population of over 3.4 million. It is a major destination for long-term migrants due to its economic position. An estimated 33 percent are not born in Australia.  The emerging global cities promote the service sector with a high number of graduates. Religious diversity is ever-changing in the country. The city is home to Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus constituting an estimated 8 percent of its total population.  The Muslims originates from South East Asian and Middle Eastern nation that include Malaysia, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Turkey.

Conclusion

The 2016 census recorded a variety of different religions due to Australia being home to a diverse collection of people.  The report indicated that Christianity is still dominating but is decreasing over the last decade. Other religions such as are Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism are emerging.  The increase is a result of increased immigrants from India and Asia. A significant proportion of Australians indicates to have religion. As the country becomes more diverse, it is becoming less religious. The Census comparison over the years indicates that the continued decline in people adhering to Christian beliefs that ‘no religion’ will become the majority. The increase in secularism is not limited to Australia but has become a global trend in 2019.

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Sources

Ahmed Maleeha (2014). Religious Trend in Australia – http://www.reviewofreligions.org/10362/religious-trends-in-australia/

Australian Bureau of Statics (July 2011). 2011 Census – https://web.archive.org/web/20110929185539

Australian Bureau of statistics. Statistical Area level 1 (SA1). Australian government. (July 2016) –  www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Lookup

Hughes, P. J., Fraser, M., Reid, S. B., & Christian Research Association.

Kosturjak, A., & South Australian Centre for Economic Studies,. (2018). Insights from the 2016 census.

Possamai, A., Cox, J. L., & Adogame, A. (2016). Religion and non-religion among Australian Aboriginal peoples.

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