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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2008  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/02/2008   
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Contents >> Culture and recreation >> Cultural diversity

CULTURAL DIVERSITY

Language

Although English is Australia's national language, the cultural diversity within the population has resulted in over 200 languages being spoken in the community. In addition to the languages other than English spoken by migrants who have settled in Australia from all over the world, there are also more than 60 different languages spoken by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The 2006 Census of Population and Housing found that, in August 2006, 3.1 million people (16% of the population) spoke a language other than English at home (table 14.36), an increase of 285,000 people or 10% since 2001.

Over 55,000 people spoke an Australian Indigenous language at home (including Australian Creoles), which equates to 11% of all Indigenous Australians and less than 1% of the total Australian population. The two most commonly spoken Indigenous languages were Torres Strait Creole and Kriol (an Australian Creole). In the Northern Territory, 54% of Indigenous people spoke an Indigenous language at home.

In 2006 the six most commonly spoken languages other than English were Italian, Greek, Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin and Vietnamese with speakers of these languages together comprising 7% of the total population (table 14.36). The extent to which these languages are spoken is a reflection of immigration policies over the last 60 years that have sourced migrants from countries where these languages are spoken. While the number of settler arrivals from countries such as Italy and Greece was high at the end of World War II, large numbers of settler arrivals from Lebanon and Vietnam arrived during the 1970s and 1980s, and from China in the 1990s.

Greek, Arabic and Italian speakers had the largest proportions of Australian-born speakers, reflecting the fact that these languages were mainly brought to Australia now more than 20 years ago and have been maintained among the children of those migrants. Languages spoken by migrants arriving in Australia more recently, such as Mandarin and Filipino, had a smaller proportion of Australian-born speakers.


14.36 PERSONS WHO SPEAK A LANGUAGE OTHER THAN ENGLISH AT HOME, By language spoken - 2006

Males
Females
Persons
Proportion born in
Australia
(a)
Persons as a proportion
of population
'000
'000
'000
%
%

Italian
154.0
162.9
316.9
42.1
1.6
Greek
124.3
128.0
252.2
52.8
1.3
Arabic
125.0
118.7
243.7
42.9
1.2
Cantonese
115.7
128.8
244.6
21.4
1.2
Mandarin
103.3
117.3
220.6
12.6
1.1
Vietnamese
94.3
100.5
194.9
30.3
1.0
Spanish
46.6
51.4
98.0
24.4
0.5
Tagalog (Filipino)
36.3
56.1
92.3
15.0
0.5
German
34.7
40.9
75.6
19.9
0.4
Hindi
36.4
33.6
70.0
13.7
0.4
Macedonian
34.0
33.8
67.8
40.1
0.3
Croatian
31.3
32.3
63.6
34.1
0.3
Australian Indigenous languages
27.1
28.6
55.7
96.4
0.3
Turkish
27.1
26.8
53.9
42.3
0.3
Polish
23.8
29.6
53.4
21.1
0.3
Serbian
26.2
26.4
52.5
24.4
0.3
Maltese
17.8
18.7
36.5
26.5
0.2
Netherlandic
16.2
19.9
36.2
14.4
0.2
All other languages(b)
424.8
448.2
873.1
18.5
4.4
Total
1 499.0
1 602.5
3 101.5
28.8
15.6

(a) Persons whose birthplace was not stated, inadequately described, n.e.c. or at sea were excluded prior to the calculation of percentages.
(b) Excludes languages that were not stated, inadequately described, and non-verbal so described.
Source: ABS data available on request, 2006 Census of Population and Housing.


English proficiency among people who spoke a language other than English at home varied with the age of the speaker and according to whether they were born in Australia (table 14.37). Around 84% of all people aged under 25 years who spoke a language other than English at home spoke English well or very well, compared with 60% of those aged 65 years and over.People born in Australia who spoke a language other than English at home were generally more likely to speak English well or very well than the total population speaking a language other than English at home. Overall, 87% of those born in Australia spoke English well or very well, compared with 81% of the total population speaking other than English at home.

14.37 PERSONS WHO SPEAK A LANGUAGE OTHER THAN ENGLISH AT HOME, By proficiency in English - 2006

Age group (years)
0-24
25-44
45-64
65 and over
Total

Total population speaking other than English at home
Speaks English well or very well %
83.6
88.2
78.5
60.3
80.8
Does not speak English well %
8.7
9.6
18.0
29.2
14.0
Does not speak English at all %
4.3
1.1
2.5
9.2
3.5
Total persons(a) '000
963.4
1 008.3
753.6
421.0
3 146.2
Australian-born population speaking other than English at home
Speaks English well or very well %
81.2
96.2
93.5
82.8
86.5
Does not speak English well %
8.4
1.9
3.6
9.5
6.1
Does not speak English at all %
6.0
0.5
1.0
3.6
4.0
Total persons(b) '000
554.0
259.1
72.8
12.4
898.4

(a) Includes 56,000 people who did not state how well they spoke English.
(b) Includes 30,500 people who did not state how well they spoke English.
Source: ABS data available on request, 2006 Census of Population and Housing.


The Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) is an initiative to improve the English language proficiency of newly arrived migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds. In 2005 there were 36,414 AMEP clients, compared with 34,147 in 2004. The registration rate (at 11 May 2006) for adult settlers who arrived in 2005 and who self-determined a need for English tuition was 72%, the same as for 2004. The registration rate indicated in the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs' Annual Report 2005-06 for each key migration category was:

  • refugee and humanitarian - 87% in 2005 (87% in 2004)
  • family - 67% in 2005 (67% in 2004)
  • skill (dependents) - 62% in 2005 (66% in 2004).
Religion

Although a precise definition of the concept of religion is difficult, a religion is generally regarded as a set of beliefs and practices, usually involving acknowledgment of a divine or higher being or power, by which people order the conduct of their lives both practically and in a moral sense.

At the time of European settlement, the Aboriginal inhabitants followed their own religions involving beliefs in spirits behind the forces of nature, and the influence of ancestral spirit beings.

During the 1800s, European settlers brought their traditional churches to Australia. These included the Church of England (now the Anglican Church), and the Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Lutheran and Baptist churches.

With the exception of a small but significant Lutheran population of Germanic 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.

Further waves of migration 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 the creation of ethnic parishes among many other denominations. More recently, immigration from south-east Asia and the Middle East has expanded Buddhist and Muslim numbers, and increased the ethnic diversity of existing Christian denominations.

In response to the 2006 Census question, stated religious affiliations were: 26% Catholic; 19% Anglican; 19% other Christian denominations; and 6% non-Christian religions. Almost 31% of all persons either stated they had no religion, or did not adequately respond to the question to enable classification of their religion.

A question on religious affiliation has been asked in every Census taken in Australia, with the voluntary nature of this question having been specifically stated since 1933. In 1971 the instruction 'if no religion, write none' was introduced. This saw a seven-fold increase from the previous Census year in the proportion of persons stating they had no religion. Since 1971 this proportion has progressively increased to about 19% in 2006. Table 14.38 provides a summary of the major religious affiliations at each Census since 1901.
14.38 MAJOR RELIGIOUS AFFILIATIONS

Christianity
Anglican
Catholic
Other
Total
Other
religions
No
religion
Not stated/
inadequately
described
Total
Census year
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
'000

1901
39.7
22.7
33.7
96.1
1.4
0.4
(a)2.0
3 773.8
1911
38.4
22.4
35.1
95.9
0.8
0.4
(a)2.9
4 455.0
1921
43.7
21.7
31.6
96.9
0.7
0.5
(a)1.9
5 435.7
1933
38.7
19.6
28.1
86.4
0.4
0.2
12.9
6 629.8
1947
39.0
20.9
28.1
88.0
0.5
0.3
11.1
7 579.4
1954
37.9
22.9
28.5
89.4
0.6
0.3
9.7
8 986.5
1961
34.9
24.9
28.4
88.3
0.7
0.4
10.7
10 508.2
1966
33.5
26.2
28.5
88.2
0.7
0.8
10.3
11 599.5
1971
31.0
27.0
28.2
86.2
0.8
6.7
6.2
12 755.6
1976
27.7
25.7
25.2
78.6
1.0
8.3
11.4
13 548.4
1981
26.1
26.0
24.3
76.4
1.4
10.8
11.4
14 576.3
1986
23.9
26.0
23.0
73.0
2.0
12.7
12.4
15 602.2
1991
23.8
27.3
22.9
74.0
2.6
12.9
10.5
16 850.3
1996
22.0
27.0
21.9
70.9
3.5
16.6
9.0
17 752.8
2001
20.7
26.6
20.7
68.0
4.9
15.5
11.7
18 769.2
2006
18.7
25.8
19.3
63.9
5.6
18.7
11.9
19 855.3

(a) Includes 'object to state'.
Source: ABS data available on request, Census of Population and Housing.


Table 14.39 shows the number and percentage of affiliates for each religion at the time of the 2001 and 2006 Censuses, and the percentage change which occurred during the five-year period. Followers of religions other than Christianity have shown the largest proportional increases since the 2001 Census. The number of persons affiliated with Hinduism increased by 55%, with Islam by 21% and with Buddhism by 17%.

Growth in the numbers and proportions of persons of all ages affiliating with Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism are largely due to changes in the countries of origin of recent immigrants. In the five years ended December 2006 there were over 570,000 new arrivals to Australia and, although the most common religious affiliation of immigrants is Christianity, affiliates of other religions are more highly represented among recent immigrants than in the total population.Of all people affiliating with Hinduism in 2006, 84% had been born overseas, with 44% born in India, 15% in Fiji and 8% in Sri Lanka. Similarly, nearly three-quarters of all those affiliating with Buddhism had been born overseas - 22% in Vietnam and 9% in China. Of all persons affiliating with Islam in 2006, 62% were overseas born, with almost 9% born in Lebanon and 7% in Turkey.

Christian denominations had smaller proportional changes in the numbers of affiliates than the non-Christian religions. While the total population grew by 6% between 2001 and 2006, the actual percentage of the population professing affiliation to the Christian denominations remained virtually unchanged. A 13% increase was seen for Pentecostal affiliation between 2001 and 2006 (from 194,600 to 219,700). A substantial increase, associated with immigration from south-eastern Europe, was also seen for the Orthodox Churches, with the number of Orthodox affiliates increasing by 9% (from 529,400 to 576,900). The most notable decreases in Christian affiliation occurred for Churches of Christ (decreasing by 11%), the Salvation Army (decreasing by 10%), the Uniting Church (decreasing by 9%), and Presbyterian and Reformed (decreasing by 6%).

14.39 RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION

2001
2006
Change
'000
%
'000
%
%

Christianity
Anglican
3 881.2
20.7
3 718.2
18.7
-4.2
Baptist
309.2
1.6
316.7
1.6
2.4
Catholic
5 001.6
26.6
5 126.9
25.8
2.5
Churches of Christ
61.3
0.3
54.8
0.3
-10.6
Jehovah's Witness
81.1
0.4
80.9
0.4
-0.2
Lutheran
250.4
1.3
251.1
1.3
0.3
Orthodox
529.4
2.8
576.9
2.9
9.0
Pentecostal
194.6
1.0
219.7
1.1
12.9
Presbyterian and Reformed
637.5
3.4
596.7
3.0
-6.4
Salvation Army
71.4
0.4
64.2
0.3
-10.1
Uniting Church
1 248.7
6.7
1 135.4
5.7
-9.1
Other Christian
497.9
2.7
544.3
2.7
9.3
Buddhism
357.8
1.9
418.8
2.1
17.0
Hinduism
95.5
0.5
148.1
0.8
55.1
Islam
281.6
1.5
340.4
1.7
20.9
Judaism
84.0
0.4
88.8
0.5
5.8
Other religions
92.4
0.5
109.0
0.6
18.0
No religion
2 906.0
15.5
3 706.6
18.7
27.5
Not stated/inadequately described
2 187.7
11.7
2 357.8
11.9
7.8
Total
18 769.2
100.0
19 855.3
100.0
5.8

Source: ABS data available on request, Census of Population and Housing.

In 2006, 80% of persons aged 65 years and over identified themselves as Christian, compared with 55% of 18-24 year olds. In contrast, the other religions have a younger age profile. For example, 17% of all Christian affiliates were aged 65 years and over, compared with 6% of Buddhist affiliates; and 8% of Christian affiliates were aged between 18 and 24 years, compared with 12% of Buddhist affiliates. The largest group of adult Buddhist affiliates was 35-44 year olds. Similar trends were evident for Hindu and Muslim affiliates.

According to the household survey, conducted by the ABS during the period March to July 2006, 20% of adults participated in religious or spiritual groups or organisations during the 12 months prior to interview. Among 18-24 year olds, 21% of women and 14% of men had participated in religious or spiritual groups or organisations. Rates for people 65 years and over were higher at 25% for women and 23% for men. While participation for this age group is similar for both men and women, in general women (23%) were more likely than men (16%) to have participated in religious or spiritual groups or organisations. People born overseas (25%) were more likely than those born in Australia (18%) to have participated in religious or spiritual groups or organisations.

The 2006 survey also found that, during the 12 months prior to interview, religious organisations received unpaid help from 1.0 million volunteers aged 18 years and over, of whom 59% were female. These volunteers for religious organisations constituted 7% of the adult population.

The 2006 Census found that 14,784 people were employed as ministers of religion in their main job, and that 78% of them were men.


Citizenship

Citizenship is a relatively recent concept for Australia as a nation, having its origins in the Australian Citizenship Act 1948 (Cwlth). Prior to this, Australians were British subjects. Since the inception of the Act in January 1949, more than three million people born overseas have acquired Australian citizenship. For these people, citizenship is voluntary, expressing a commitment to the laws and principles of Australia, and respect for its land and its people. It confers the opportunity to participate more fully in Australian society, giving the rights to vote, to apply for public office, and to hold an Australian passport and hence leave and re-enter Australia freely.Australian citizenship law and policy have been amended many times since their inception to reflect a more inclusive approach to the acquisition of Australian citizenship, with recent changes in policy creating more opportunities for young adults to acquire citizenship. All migrants who meet set criteria are encouraged to become Australian citizens. Children born in Australia acquire Australian citizenship at birth if at least one parent is an Australian citizen or a permanent resident of Australia. Children born overseas may be registered as having Australian citizenship by descent if at least one of their parents is an Australian citizen. Changes to citizenship legislation in 2002 have also made it possible for Australian citizens to hold citizenship of a second country, when previously this would have meant forfeiting their Australian citizenship. For more information see the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship website.

The 2006 Census found almost three-quarters (73%) of people born overseas who had been resident in Australia for two years or more were Australian citizens (table 14.40). The longer overseas-born people reside in Australia the more likely it is that they have acquired Australian citizenship. For example, there is a high proportion of Australian citizens among people born in Greece (97%) reflecting past immigration policies which sourced migrants from countries such as Greece at the end of World War II.

14.40 OVERSEAS-BORN PEOPLE RESIDENT IN AUSTRALIA FOR TWO YEARS OR MORE - 2006

Persons
Citizenship rate(a)
Selected birthplace
'000
%

Greece
102.5
97.2
Vietnam
145.9
93.7
Philippines
106.7
88.1
Italy
185.7
80.5
Netherlands
74.8
78.0
South Africa
90.5
77.1
Germany
99.3
74.4
India
115.0
67.8
China (excl. SARs & Taiwan)
172.5
67.0
United Kingdom
950.0
65.9
New Zealand
336.4
39.4
All overseas born(b)
3 916.3
72.9

(a) People for whom citizenship was not stated were excluded prior to the calculation of percentages.
(b) Excludes people whose birthplace was not stated, inadequately described, not elsewhere classified or at sea.
Source: ABS data available on request, 2006 Census of Population and Housing.

Australian residents who were previously nationals of the United Kingdom accounted for the largest group (21%) among the 103,350 people granted Australian citizenship in 2005-06 (table 14.41). This is consistent with the large numbers of United Kingdom-born people resident in Australia. Former British, Irish and New Zealand citizens have been among the largest sources of Australian citizens since the early 1970s, when legislative changes and visa requirements prompted many Commonwealth citizens living in Australia to apply for Australian citizenship. Former citizens of the United Kingdom (22%), China (9%), New Zealand (7%), India (7%) and South Africa (5%) together comprised 50% of all people granted Australian citizenship in 2005-06.


Ancestry

The ancestry classification used by the ABS recognises the self-defined and self-reported ancestries of all Australians and includes ancestries which refer to nations, to groups within nations, and to groups or regions which cross national boundaries. Yet ancestry is a complex concept. A person's ancestry is shaped by country of birth and citizenship along with the more intangible concepts of language and religion. Moreover, the concept of ancestry is further complicated because a person may report more than one ancestry in answer to the Census question, and the question is open to their individual interpretation.

While ancestry has similarities with ethnic identity, the former has a more historical orientation. Respondents to the 2006 Census were asked to provide up to two ancestries only, while for the 2001 Census respondents were asked to consider their ancestry as far back as three generations. The 1986 Census was the only other to include questions about ancestry, but respondents were asked to consider their ancestry only as far back as two generations.

In 2006, more than 270 ancestries were separately identified by Australia's population. The most commonly stated were Australian (37%) and English (32%), while other main ancestries included Irish (9%), Scottish (8%), Italian (4%), German (4%), and Chinese (3%) (table 14.42).

While some of the other main ancestries had a strong association with Australia and with one other birthplace, others were associated with a wider range of birthplaces. Chinese ancestry, for example, was not only associated with Australia (26%), China (29%) and Hong Kong (10%), but with several other birthplaces such as Malaysia (10%) and Vietnam (6%).Ancestry changes are consistent with immigration trends over the period but some other changes can be attributed to changing perceptions of ancestry as well as differences in Census question design. An example of this is the three-fold increase in the number of people reporting Scottish ancestry to 1.5 million in 2006.

14.41 PEOPLE GRANTED AUSTRALIAN CITIZENSHIP - 2005-06

Country of former nationality or citizenship
no.
%

United Kingdom
22 143
21.4
China(a)
9 038
8.7
New Zealand
7 636
7.4
India
7 439
7.2
South Africa
5 036
4.9
Philippines
3 725
3.6
Sudan
2 793
2.7
Iraq
2 173
2.1
Vietnam
2 114
2.0
Malaysia
2 000
1.9
Sri Lanka
1 958
1.9
United States of America
1 828
1.8
Korea, Republic of (South)
1 758
1.7
Fiji
1 697
1.6
Indonesia
1 397
1.4
Lebanon
1 269
1.2
Irish Republic
1 233
1.2
Afghanistan
1 181
1.1
Taiwan
1 121
1.1
Pakistan
1 078
1.0
Thailand
1 028
1.0
Other/not stated
23 705
22.9
Total
103 350
100.0

(a) Includes citizens of Hong Kong and Macau SARs but excludes those of Taiwan.
Source: Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Annual Report, 2005-06.

14.42 POPULATION, By self-reported ancestry

2001
2006
Ancestry
'000
%
'000
%

Australian
6 739.6
35.9
7 371.8
37.1
Other Australian ancestries(a)
106.4
0.6
129.9
0.7
New Zealander
123.3
0.7
160.7
0.8
Maori
73.0
0.4
92.9
0.5
Other Pacific Islander
91.7
0.5
117.7
0.6
European
English
6 358.9
33.9
6 283.6
31.6
Irish
1 919.7
10.2
1 803.7
9.1
Scottish
540.0
2.9
1 501.2
7.6
Italian
800.3
4.3
852.4
4.3
German
742.2
4.0
811.5
4.1
Greek
375.7
2.0
365.2
1.8
Dutch
268.8
1.4
310.1
1.6
Maltese
136.8
0.7
153.8
0.8
Other European
1 196.2
6.4
1 297.9
6.5
Middle Eastern
Lebanese
162.2
0.9
181.8
0.9
Turkish
54.6
0.3
59.4
0.3
Other Middle Eastern
147.0
0.8
189.7
1.0
Asian
Chinese
556.6
3.0
669.9
3.4
Indian
156.6
0.8
234.7
1.2
Vietnamese
156.6
0.8
173.7
0.9
Filipino
129.8
0.7
160.4
0.8
Other Asian
339.5
1.8
455.3
2.3
Other ancestry(b)
243.9
1.3
386.4
1.9
Total population(c)
18 769.2
100.0
19 855.3
100.0

(a) Includes Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Australian of South Sea Islander descent.
(b) Includes 'mixed' ancestry.
(c) Components may not add to totals because people may report more than one ancestry.
Source: ABS data available on request, Census of Population and Housing.


The proportion of the population who reported more than one ancestry increased from 22% in 2001 to 35% in 2006. For those who reported Australian ancestry, the second ancestries reported were mainly English (17% of the total Australian ancestry group), Scottish (4%) and Irish (3%). Some ancestries were more likely than others to be part of a two-ancestry response. People reporting Thai (99%) or Irish ancestries (76%) were the most likely to also report another ancestry, while people who reported Korean (1%), Vietnamese (1%), or Bengali (2%) were the least likely to report another ancestry.

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