Although Australians are predominantly Christian (about 64% of the population), Australia has no official state religion. Instead, the Australian Government believes in encouraging mutual respect, understanding and tolerance among different religions.
The main Christian denominations are Catholic (25.8% of the population), Anglican (18.7%) and Uniting Church (5.7%).
About 6% of the population is affiliated with non-Christian religions. The biggest of these are Buddhism (2.1% of the population), Islam (1.7%) and Hinduism (0.7%).
The remaining 30% of the population do not identify themselves as religious.
For thousands of years Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples followed their own religions and spiritual beliefs, which are based on the forces of nature, a reverence for land and the influence of ancestral spiritual beings. Following European settlement in 1788, many Indigenous Australians converted to Christianity or other religions.
Religious services on campus
Chaplaincy services on campus cater for the various Christian denominations as well as the Jewish and Muslim communities. The services include fellowship, religious counselling, and leadership in the study of religious texts and doctrines.
The Islamic Society
Religious networks in Australia
The Catholic Church has 32 dioceses in Australia and 1363 parishes. Catholic Social Services Australia is the church’s peak national body. The Catholic school education system is a major education sector and accounts for 21% of all secondary school enrolments.
The Anglican Church of Australia is organised into 23 dioceses and has specialist units that work in education, health, missionary work, social welfare and communications. There are 145 Anglican schools in Australia.
The Uniting Church of Australia is a union of three churches – the Congregational Union of Australia, the Methodist Church of Australasia, and the Presbyterian Church of Australia. The Uniting Church is engaged in community work, particularly in aged care, hospitals, nursing, family support services, youth services and care for the homeless. It runs a 24-hour telephone counselling service, Lifeline. The church has 48 schools in Australia.
Europeans migrating to Australia after World War II brought with them the Orthodox religions, particularly the Greek, Macedonian, Serbian and Russian Orthodox churches. There are around 540,000 Orthodox Christians in Australia.
Chinese labourers working in the goldfields first brought Buddhism to Australia in the 1850s. Today, Buddhism is one of the fastest-growing religions in Australia, with immigration from South-East Asia being a key factor. The three main Buddhist traditions, namely Theravada, East Asian and Tibetan, are represented in Australia.
Indian crews from the Bay of Bengal are believed to have to come to Australia on trading ships soon after 1788. Today there are about 150,000 Hindus in Australia, most migrating from countries such as Fiji, India, Sri Lanka and South Africa. Australia is home to about 34 Hindu temples.
Australia’s first mosque was built at Marree in the South Australian desert in the mid 1800s after camel drivers arrived from Afghanistan. Since World War II, increasing numbers of Muslims have settled in Australia from the Middle East, Europe and Asia. There are more than 360,000 Muslims in Australia today, and there are over 100 mosques and prayer centres.
The first Jewish settlers arrived about 30 years after European settlement. Successive waves of European migration have expanded Australia’s Jewish community to about 90,000 today. Cultural life has evolved to include B’nai B’rith (a service organisation), the Folk Centres for Yiddish Culture, the Jewish Arts and Culture Council, and the Hakoah Club.