Frank Moloney

Australian Religion and culture


Religions span national, geographic, cultural and ethnic boundaries and may be the focus of individual and family identification. Religious institutions and observances play an important role in catering for people's social, psychological and cultural needs as well as their spiritual needs.

In the 2011 Census, Christians represented 61% of the population. Non-Christians represented about 8% of the population. About 31% of the population stated they had no religion or did not state their religion. The 2011 Census recorded over 120 different religious denominations each with 250 or more followers. The religious composition of the States and Territories varies.

Christianity

Australia's major religion is Christianity with the major denominations including Catholic, Anglican, Uniting Church, Presbyterian and Reformed, Eastern Orthodox, Baptist and Lutheran. The two major denominations, Anglican and Catholic, account for 42.4% of the Australian population.

Other major religions

The non-Christian religions represented in Australia include Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Buddhism is the largest non-Christian religion and accounts for 2.5% of the total population. Islam, the second largest non-Christian religion represented in Australia today accounts for 2.2% of the total population. Hindus and Jews account for 1.3% and 0.5% of the total population respectively.

Non-Christian religions in Australia 2011

(a) Comprises Religious belief, nfd; Not defined; New Age, so described; and Theism

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander spirituality

Since contact, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been affiliated with various religions.

However, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the concept of 'spirituality' refers to a more holistic view of life - in particular one's link with the land, sea and air. Consequently, this relationship confirms one's identity and place as an Aboriginal person and or a Torres Strait Islander person.

There are no words in English to appropriately describe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander spirituality. The term 'Dreaming' has been associated with Aboriginal spirituality but does not adequately reflect its complexity nor the fact that the 'Dreaming' permeates every aspect of Aboriginal cultures and societies. 'Dreamings' will vary from group to group.

For Torres Strait Islanders, terms such as 'Before, Before time'; 'Before time'; 'Kulai tonar'; and 'Zogo time' are markers that identify the time prior to contact and the introduction of religion into the Torres Strait Islands. Like the Aboriginal Dreamings, Creation Stories or Legends from the Torres Strait Islands provide a basis for their identity.



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