2016 Census: Religion

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27 June 2017

2016 Census data reveals “no religion” is rising fast

The results of the latest national Census today reveal we’re a religiously diverse nation, with Christianity remaining the most common religion (52 per cent of the population).

Islam (2.6 per cent) and Buddhism (2.4 per cent) were the next most common religions reported. Nearly a third of Australians (30 per cent) reported in the Census that they had no religion in 2016.

The religious makeup of Australia has changed gradually over the past 50 years. In 1966, Christianity (88 per cent) was the main religion. By 1991, this figure had fallen to 74 per cent, and further to the 2016 figure. Catholicism is the largest Christian grouping in Australia, accounting for almost a quarter (22.6 per cent) of the Australian population.

Australia is increasingly a story of religious diversity, with Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, and Buddhism all increasingly common religious beliefs. Hinduism had the most significant growth between 2006 and 2016, driven by immigration from South Asia.

The growing percentage of Australia’s population reporting no religion has been a trend for decades, and is accelerating. Those reporting no religion increased noticeably from 19 per cent in 2006 to 30 per cent in 2016. The largest change was between 2011 (22 per cent) and 2016, when an additional 2.2 million people reported having no religion.

How likely a person was to identify as religious in 2016 had a lot to do with their age. Young adults aged 18-34 were more likely to be affiliated with religions other than Christianity (12 per cent) and to report not having a religion (39 per cent) than other adult age groups. Older age groups, particularly those aged 65 years and over, were more likely to report Christianity.

In terms of states, New South Wales had the highest religious affiliation (66 per cent of people reporting a religious affiliation), while Tasmania (53 per cent) was the lowest.

Australian Statistician David W. Kalisch said Census data is high quality, thanks to the participation of Australians.

“The Independent Assurance Panel I established to provide extra assurance and transparency of Census data quality concluded that the 2016 Census data can be used with confidence,” Mr Kalisch said.

“The 2016 Census had a response rate of 95.1 per cent and a net undercount of 1.0 per cent. This is a quality result, comparable to both previous Australian Censuses and Censuses in other countries, such as New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

“Furthermore, 63 per cent of people completed the Census online, embracing the digital-first approach and contributing to faster data processing and data quality improvements.

“2016 Census data provides a detailed, accurate and fascinating picture of Australia, which will be used to inform critical policy, planning and service delivery decisions for our communities over the coming years,” he said.

Census data is available free online. Use one of our easy tools such as QuickStats and Community Profiles to access the latest data for your area or topic of interest.

For more information on religion in the Census, go to the Religion Data Summary.

You can also attend one of our free Seminars. To find out more about Census Data Seminar series, or to register, go to the ABS website.

    Religion Top 20 – Australia


    No religion – 30.1%
    Catholic – 25.3%
    Catholic – 22.6%
    No religion – 22.3%
    Anglican – 13.3%
    Anglican – 17.1%
    Uniting Church – 3.7%
    Uniting Church 5.0%
    Christian, (Not further defined)– 2.6%
    Presbyterian and Reformed – 2.8%
    Islam – 2.6%
    Eastern Orthodox – 2.6%
    Buddhism – 2.4%
    Buddhism – 2.5%
    Presbyterian and Reformed – 2.3%
    Islam 2.2%
    Eastern Orthodox – 2.1%
    Christian (Not further defined) 2.2%
    Hinduism – 1.9%
    Baptist – 1.6%
    Baptist – 1.5%
    Hinduism 1.3%
    Pentecostal – 1.1%
    Lutheran – 1.2%
    Lutheran – 0.7%
    Pentecostal 1.1%
    Sikhism – 0.5%
    Judaism – 0.5%
    Other Protestant – 0.5%
    Jehovah’s Witnesses – 0.4%
    Judaism – 0.4%
    Sikhism – 0.3%
    Jehovah’s Witnesses – 0.4%
    Seventh–day Adventist – 0.3%
    Seventh-day Adventist – 0.3%
    Other Protestant – 0.3%
    Latter-day Saints – 0.3%
    Salvation Army – 0.3%
    Oriental Orthodox – 0.2%
    Latter-day Saints – 0.3%