Census reveals Australia’s religious diversity on World Religion Day

World Religion Day aims to foster interfaith understanding and harmony, and is an opportunity to recognise the diversity of religion present in modern day Australia.

The 2016 Census of Population and Housing found that three-fifths of the Australian population (61 per cent, or 14 million people) are affiliated with a religion or spiritual belief.

Christianity is once again the dominant religion in Australia, with 12 million people, and 86 per cent of religious Australians, identifying as Christians. There was roughly a seven per cent drop in the number of Christians since 2011. More than two in five (43 per cent) of Christians are Catholic, the largest broad denomination, while a quarter are Anglican (25 per cent).

Just over two million Australians indicated a religion other than Christianity, accounting for 14 per cent of religious people and eight per cent of the total population.

Australia is home to a diverse collection of people, and this is also apparent through the wide variety of different religions recorded on the Census.

The most prominent non-Christian religions are Islam (600,000 people), Buddhism (560,000), Hinduism (440,000), Sikhism (130,000) and Judaism (90,000). Sikhism is in fact the fastest-growing religion in Australia since 2011 (74 per cent increase) ahead of Hinduism (60 per cent increase).

Other Spiritual beliefs practised by Australians include Middle Eastern religions (Baha’i, Mandaean, Druse, Zoroastrianism and Yezidi), Nature religions (Paganism, Wiccan, Animism and Druidism), East Asian beliefs (Taoism, Confucianism, Ancestor Veneration and Shinto), and Australian Aboriginal traditional beliefs.

Although Australia remains a predominantly religious country, about one third of all Australians (30 per cent, or 7 million people) indicated either ‘No Religion’ or a secular belief such as Atheism, Humanism or Agnosticism. The number of people indicating they had ‘No Religion’ has increased by almost 50 per cent from 2011 to 2016.

The 2016 Census also found:

  • Islam and Australian Aboriginal traditional beliefs were the religions with the youngest median age (27 years), while Christianity and Judaism both have a median age of 44 years.
  • The most urbanised religions are Mandaean, Druse and Jainism – with 99 per cent of Mandaeans, 98 per cent of Druse and 96 per cent of Jains living in a capital city. The least urbanised religion is Australian Aboriginal traditional beliefs (20 per cent), ahead of Paganism and Wicca (56 per cent and 57 per cent respectively).
  • Hindus and Jains are most likely to be born overseas, with over four-fifths (81 per cent) emigrating from other countries – predominantly India.
  • The religion with the highest proportion of females to males is Wiccan, with 26 males per 100 females, compared to the national ratio of 97 males per 100 females. The religion with the highest proportion of males to females is Rastafari, with 346 males per 100 females.
  • Although not a recognised religion in Australia, close to 48,000 people reported themselves as Jedi.

Further information on Australia’s religious diversity can be found at the ABS website, by using one of our online data tools – QuickStats and Community Profiles, and in our Reflecting Australia analytical article.

Religious Affiliation in Australia

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