Australian Bureau of Statistics
1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2005
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 21/01/2005
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In 1983 the High Court of Australia defined religion as 'a complex of beliefs and practices which point to a set of values and an understanding of the meaning of existence'.
Table 12.18 shows the distribution of religious groupings by the number and percentage of affiliates at the 1996 and 2001 censuses, and the change which occurred during the five-year period. Affiliates of religions other than Christianity have shown the largest proportional increases since the 1996 census. Buddhist affiliates increased by 79%, Hindu affiliates by 42%, Islam affiliates by 40% and Judaism affiliates by 5%.
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. Between 1996 and 2001 there were just over half a million 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 2001, 82% had been born overseas, with 34% born in India and 11% in Sri Lanka. Similarly, nearly three-quarters of all those affiliating with Buddhism had been born overseas - 26% in Vietnam and 8% in China. Of persons of all ages affiliating with Islam in 2001, 62% were overseas born, with almost 11% born in Lebanon and 9% in Turkey.
Christian denominations had smaller proportional changes in the numbers of affiliates than the non-Christian religions. Between 1996 and 2001 Catholic affiliates increased by 4.2% and Baptist affiliates by 4.8%. However, as the total population grew by 6% during this period, the actual percentage of the population professing affiliation to these denominations remained virtually unchanged. The most notable decreases in Christian affiliation occurred for Churches of Christ (decreasing by 18%), the Uniting Church (decreasing by 7%), and Presbyterian and Reformed (decreasing by 6%). An 11% increase was seen for Pentecostal affiliation between 1996 and 2001 (from 174,720 to 194,592). 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 7% (from 497,015 to 529,444).
In 2001, 82% of persons aged 65 years and over identified themselves as Christian, compared with 60% of 18-24 year olds. In contrast, the other religions have a younger age profile. For example, 15% 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 13% of Buddhist affiliates. The largest group of Buddhist affiliates was 35-44 year olds. Similar trends were evident for Hindu and Muslim affiliates. In the 2001 census, people in the 18-24 years age group were the most likely to state that they had no religion (20%).
This page last updated 20 April 2007
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