Religious Expression in Australia - 1945 to the Present

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2.1. Outline changing patterns of religious adherence from 1945 to the present using census data

  • Islam - 1976: 0.3%, 2016: 2.6%
  • Hinduism - 1986: 0.1%, 2016: 1.9%
  • Sikhism - 1986: Less than 0.1%, 2016: 0.5%
  • Buddhism - 1947: 0,01%, 2016: 2.4%
  • Judaism - 1947: 0.4%, 2016: 2.4%
  • Christianity - 2011: 61.1%, 2016: 52%
  • No Religion - 1971: 7%, 2016: 30.1%

2.2. Account for the present religious landscape in Australia in relation to:

2.2.1. Christianity as the Major Religious Tradition

  • Christianity is the major religious tradition in Australia as a result of colonialization
  • The First Fleet was primarily Anglicans, with a small (but significant) number of Irish Catholics
  • This is reflected in the census as a 52% national majority
  • However, every time another religious group experiences a significant increase, the result is that Christianity’s percentage declines
Remember, this doesn’t necessarily mean that there are less Christians, just that a lower PERCENTAGE of Australians are Christian adherents.
Denomination20112016 or
Eastern Orthodox8.4%8.2%
Uniting Church5.0%3.7%

2.2.2. Immigration

  • Immigration is responsible for basically all religion in Australia
  • Immigration in 1945 was primarily British-assisted migrants, as well as European war refugees
  • 1945-1960: Massive influx of Jewish immigrants (because of WW2)
  • 1960-1975: The abolition of the White Australia policy, as well as the Viet Nam and Korean Wars led to an influx of Asian migrants, resulting in the rise of Eastern religions (such as Buddhism and Hinduism)
  • 1980-present: Iraqi Civil War and the rise of Al Qaeda leads to an influx of Middle Eastern immigrants, observed as a rise in Islam in the census

2.2.3. Denominational Switching

  • Pentecostals observed an increase in adherence, primarily driven by younger people
    • Observed as a growth of approximately 16% over 5 years
  • Most traditional churches (Orthodoxy, Protestants, Anglicans) lost popularity
  • Catholicism was not drastically affected, but still experienced a decline

2.2.4. Rise of New-Age Religions

  • Among the fastest growing faith groups in the 2016 census, increasing by 140% since 1996
  • Differ from traditional faiths in that, while they form an overall spiritual movement, they lack any unifying creed or doctrine
  • Regardless, adherents tend to share some similar beliefs and practices
  • Why?
    • A reaction against what is seen as a failure of Christianity and other mainstream religions to satisfactorily respond to the needs of people today
    • Concept of something well tried, and yet new and different
  • Spread rapidly due to the support of celebrities (e.g. Scientology)

2.2.5. Secularisation

  • Any movement or concept, which rejects religious belief or adherence
  • 1971: first time that ‘No Religion’ category was included on census – explains rapid increase at the time
  • Secular systems based on reason, fact and scientific analysis and therefore, differ from religious systems, which tend to be based on divine revelation and spiritual insight
  • However, today there is less emphasis on conforming and more emphasis on the autonomy of the individual to determine what feels spiritually right to them
  • Increased freedom – rise of secularism and the understanding that religion is essentially a private concern

2.3. Describe the impact on Australia’s religious landscape by:

2.3.1 Ecumenical Dialogue

  • ecumenism is the communication and interaction between different denominations within Christianity, with a strong focus on promotive unity through the similarities and disregarding differences. emphasis on love and solidarity, and promoting social justice.
    • prompted by the changing religious landscape particularly denominational switching, immigration, Christianity as the major tradition, and the rise of secularism.

2.3.2 Interfaith Dialogue

  • dialogue occurring between different religious traditions, aiming to promote unity and understanding within the nation and positive dialogue and respect. aims to eliminate intolerance.
    • prompted by immigration and the influx of new religious traditions forming in Australia post-1945. The rise of secularism and the role of Christianity as the major religious tradition in Australia.
    • Judaism influx caused by WW2
    • interfaith dialogue aims to resolve the conflict created through the impact of wars on communities and the separation of religious groups through persecution.

2.3.3 Reconciliation

  • the apology and repentance of religious traditions to the indigenous Australian community to overcome conflict and rebuild relationships that were destroyed throughout Australia’s early history.
    • Aims to heal the effects of displacement and the stolen generation and reconnect the indigenous Australian and non-indigenous communities throughout Australia as a multifaith and harmonious society
    • Also aims to educate those about the struggles of indigenous people and continue fighting for social progress in terms of equality and social justice.
    • Was mostly prompted by dispossession, forced assimilation, and the land rights movement.
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