Australia is a country in the southern Pacific Ocean, southeast of Asia.
While Australia is a highly secular country, with those identifying themselves as Christians going from 96.1% in 1901 to 63.9% in 2006, Christianity is still the most widely adopted religion in Australia, according to the five yearly Australian census.
British and European colonisation of Australia from 1788 brought Christianity with it, the early European groups were predominantly Roman Catholic found amongst Irish convicts and Anglican among other convicts and their gaolers. Other groups were also represented, for example, among the Tolpuddle martyrs were a number of Methodists.
Since the 1800s immigrants have included a broad range of denominations and many of these now operate autonomously from the overseas founding denominations. Immigrants brought their own expressions of Christianity with them, particular examples are the Lutherans from Prussia who tended to settle in the Barossa Valley, South Australia and in Queensland, Methodists in South Australia, with notable pockets coming from Cornwall to work the copper mines in Moonta. Other groups included the Presbyterian, Congregationalist and Baptist churches.
With the exception of a small but significant Lutheran population of German descent, Australian society in 1901 was predominantly Anglo-Celtic, with 40% of the population being Anglican, 23% Catholic, 34% other Christian and about 1% professing non-Christian religions. The first census in 1911 showed 96.1 percent identified themselves as Christian.
Further waves of migration and the gradual winding back of the White Australia Policy, helped to reshape the profile of Australia's religious affiliations over subsequent decades. The impact of migration from Europe in the aftermath of World War II led to increases in affiliates of the Orthodox Churches, the establishment of Reformed bodies, growth in the number of Catholics (largely from Italian migration) and Jews (Holocaust survivors), and the creation of ethnic parishes among many other denominations. More recently (post-1970s), immigration from South-East Asia and the Middle East has expanded Buddhist and Muslim numbers considerably, and increased the ethnic diversity of existing denominations.
|Census year||Anglican %||Catholic %||Other Christian %||Total Christian %||Total population counted '000|
Data for table from Australian Bureau of Statistics
According to the 2006 Australian census analysed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 12,685,829 or 63.9% of the population self-declared as Christians.
|- Roman Catholic||5,126,884||25.8||5,001,624||26.6||-0.8||+2.5|
|- The Uniting Church in Australia||1,135,423||5.7||1,248,674||6.7||-1.0||-9.1|
|- Presbyterian and Reformed||596,668||3.0||637,530||3.4||-0.4||-6.4|
|- Other Protestant||736,004||3.7||675,422||3.6||+0.1||+9.0|
|- Oriental Orthodox||40,901||0.2||36,324||0.2||0||+12.6|
|- Other Religions||242,848||1.2||92,369||0.5||+0.7||+162.9|
|- No Religions||3,706,556||18.7||2,905,993||15.5||+3.2||+27.5|
|- Not stated/inadequately described||2,223,959||11.2||2,187,688||11.7||-0.5||+1.7|
Indigenous Australians and Christianity Edit
The Christian denominations and European culture have had a significant impact on Indigenous Australians, their religion and their culture. As in many colonial situations the churches both facilitated the loss of Indigenous Australian culture and religion and also facilitated its maintenance.
Missionaries attempted to convert Indigenous people to Christianity. The Presbyterian Church of Australia’s Australian Inland Mission and the Lutheran mission at Hermannsburg, Northern Territory being examples.
Social and political engagementEdit
A number of denominations are significant providers of social welfare (including residential aged care and the Job Network) and education in Australia, Australia wide these include The Salvation Army, the Uniting Church’s UnitingCare Australia and the Wesley Missions, the Anglican Church of Australia’s Anglicare and the Roman Catholic Church in Australia’s Centacare. Hillsong Church's Hillsong Emerge is a local example in Sydney.
There are substantial networks of Christian schools associated with denominations and also some that operate as parachurch organisations. These range from elite, high cost schools to low fee locally based schools. Denominations with networks of schools include:
A number of current and past politicians present themselves as Christian in public life, these include:
- Federally: Kevin Rudd (Anglican, former Roman Catholic, former Prime Minister) Christopher Pyne (Roman Catholic, Liberal MP), Tony Abbott (Roman Catholic, Liberal MP) and Steve Fielding (Pentecostal, Family First Senator), and previously Brian Harradine, Tasmanian independent (1975-2005), Brian Howe Labor Deputy Prime Minister (1991-1995)
- State: Fred Nile and Gordon Moyes in the New South Wales Legislative Council, Andrew Evans in the South Australian Legislative Council and Joh Bjelke Petersen Premier of Queensland (1968 to 1987).
The churches with the largest number of members are the Roman Catholic Church in Australia, the Anglican Church of Australia and the The Uniting Church in Australia. Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are growing fast, with megachurches, predominantly associated with Australian Christian Churches (the Assemblies of God in Australia), being found in most states (for example, Hillsong Church and Paradise Community Church).
|The Uniting Church in Australia||1,135,423||9.0|
|Presbyterian and Reformed||596,668||4.7|
While church affiliation identifies the largest denominations, church attendance identifies the most active Christian denominations. The National Church Life Survey researches church attendance through a survey done in over 7000 congregations every Australian Census year. The Roman Catholic Church represents the highest number of church attenders, with over 50 percent. Whilst church attendance is generally decreasing the Roman Catholic Church attendance in Australia is declining at a rate of 13 percent. Pentecostal denominations such as Australian Christian Churches and Christian City Churches continue to grow rapidly, growing by over 20 per cent between 1991 and 1996. Some Protestant denominations such as the Baptist Union of Australia and the Churches of Christ in Australia grew at a smaller rate, less than 10 per cent, between 1991 and 1996.
|The Uniting Church in Australia||126,600||8.3|
|Australian Christian Churches||104,600||6.9|
|Churches of Christ||45,100||3.0|
- Anglican Church of Australia
- Antiochian Orthodox Church
- Australian Christian Churches (Assemblies of God)
- Baptist Union of Australia
- Christian Reformed Church of Australia
- Churches of Christ in Australia
- CRC Churches International
- Free Reformed Churches of Australia
- Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia
- Lutheran Church of Australia
- Macedonian Orthodox Church
- Revival Centres International
- Roman Catholic Church
- The Salvation Army
- Uniting Church in Australia
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