Religious expression in Australia – 1945 to the present

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  1. Outline the changing patterns of religious adherence from 1945 to the present using census data
    • * Since 1945 there have been significant changes in the Australian religious landscape as a result of
    • numerous factors. Patterns such as increases, decreases and additions/subtractions of religions have affected and shaped the religious adherence of Australia.

    • • Christianity is clearly the most dominant religion today, and has been since 1945.
    • • Despite Christianity being the dominant religion, there has been significant decrease in its adherents, in the 1947 census with 87% of the population adhering, while in the 2001 census data this figure had changed to approximately 68%
    • • Buddhism was an addition to the religious landscape of Australia in the 1981 census and achieved a large adherent and follower base – the most non-Christian denomination by at almost 2%
    • • Noticeable change for Anglican denomination as the dominant Christian religion in 1947 (39%) and
    • as of 2001 has approximately 21% of the Christian population.
    • Second to Catholicism which as of 2001 has about 26.5% of the Christian adherents.
    • • The most obvious and significant increase occurs with 'No Religion'. In the 1947 census data, only 0.3% of the population admitted to having no religion, while 2001 that has increased to 15.5%,
    • • The Methodist church died away by the 1986 census – this dissolved into the Uniting Church
  2. Account for the present religious landscape in Australia in relation to
    – Christianity as the major religious tradition
    – immigration
    – denominational switching
    – rise of New Age religions
    – secularism
    • Christianity has always been the largest and dominant religious tradition in Australia since 1945 (and before) which is attributed to the white settlement.
    • The first fleet arrived in 1788 which claimed the Australian land bringing European traditions and religions, mostly Irish Catholic and Anglican, both Christian denominations.
    • The 2001 census data shows that approximately 68% of the Australian population was a Christian adherent of some denomination at this time.
    • This continuing effect as Christianity as the major religious tradition is accounted to the White Australia policy which was in placement up until 1972 which prevent the influx of other religious traditions, and thus Christianity took its course.

    With the extinguished White Australia policy in 1972, it enabled overseas people and their families to immigrate to Australia, seeking refuge and safety. The increase in immigration figures lead to a significant influx of Western religious traditions (non-Christian) such as Buddhism and an increase in Muslims (Islamic). The increases in non-Christian denominations have shaped the Australian religious landscape and as a result, Australia has developed into a multi-faith nation with accepts and encompasses a variety of religions and religious traditions.

    • Denominational switching is the act of changing or 'switching' between denominations within one large religious tradition. Denominational switching is often used to refer to those whom drift from group to group within the Christian religion.
    • Denominational switching does not have a huge impact on the dynamic, changing nature of Australia's religious landscape but does affect it so. Such 'denominational switchers' can have a detrimental impact on some denominations because the individual is not satisfied and so will spread this knowledge and opinion to others – which may lead to others leaving that tradition.

    New Age religions have made a rather significant impact on the changes within the Australian religious landscape with a focus on the individual. 'New Age' religions have been present in Australia for at least 100 years with traditions such as Numerology, Astrology and Paganism, but has not been until recently that the appeal of these New Age religions has increased and thus made an impact on the religious landscape. The appeal of the New Age religions lie within their leniency and often focus on the individual and their nourishment which have adapted to suit the modern lifestyle of many Australians. With many people heading toward the 'New Age' religions, it means many adherents from traditional religions, particularly Christianity, and thus have a decrease in adherents over the years. This furthermore shapes the religious landscape of Australia.

    • Secularism, which ties in with New Age religions, is the on going process of people adapting to the
    • dynamic Australia landscape and thus no longer needing religion. Secularism was furthered by the reformist agenda of the nineteenth century Protestant Australia. With increased life expectancy and health/welfare implementations, many feel there is no place for religion in their lives. Secularism is currently having a major impact on Australia's religions, as they lose both appeal and adherents. This trend and impact of secularism is evident in the 2001 census data, with approximately 20% of the nation with 'no religion' which can be opposed to <1% before the abolishment of the White Australia Policy (1972). Phasing out of religion.
  3. Describe the impact of Christian ecumenical movements in Australia
    – The National Council of Churches
    – NSW Ecumenical Council
    The Ecumenical movement in Australia is a mission lead by Ecumenical bodies to bring together and connect many of Australia's Christian churches – which have been separated by the small differences in each denomination. The movement is an acknowledgement that the Christian churches' unity outweighs their differences.

    • The Australian ecumenical movement began to take shape around the late 19th century but was formalised in 1946 through the Australian Committee for the World Council of Churches. The movement began with only the Anglican and Mainline Protestant churches in the 1960s and 1970s. However, following the Second Vatican Council, the National Council of Churches Australia (NCCA) succeeded its predecessors and the Catholic Church joined.
    • The contribution and efforts of the NCCA and NSW Ecumenical Council (formed in 1982), along with participating churches and ecumenical groups (such as the St Vincent de Paul Society and Anglo-care) have resulted in the joining of many Christian Churches.

    • Initiatives undertaken by the NCCA include:
    • • The formation of the Uniting Church is in fact a rather significant ecumenical initiative formed
    • by the coming together of Congregationalists, Methodist and Presbyterian
    • • Human Rights Day
    • • World AIDS Day

    • Initiatives undertaken by the NSW Ecumenical Council include the following:
    • • Local Covenanting – supporting local churches with funding and resources in an effort to unite
    • • Care for Creation – combination of numerous Christian churches praying for the healing of creation

    • As a result of the efforts of churches such as Anglican, Uniting, Catholic and Chinese Methodist Churches great projects have been completed. The combined effort due to the ecumenical movement has provided assistance to those in need of spiritual healing, shelter and food, which can be exemplified by the contributions made to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal in 2009.
    • The Ecumenical movement in Australia has effectively resulted in the fusion and connection of many Christian denominations in the effort to eliminate secularism. Ecumenism is viewed as one of the most significant positive initiatives that have kept Christian values alive and coursing through the veins of society.
  4. Evaluate the importance of interfaith dialogue in multifaith Australia
    • Interfaith dialogue is integral to underpinning today’s modern spiritual lifestyles if various and different religious traditions are to co-exist harmoniously.
    • The interfaith dialogue launched by the NCCA in 2003 aimed to provide opportunity for the national bodies of each faith to unite to build understanding and harmony in the Australian context. The dialogue is essential for peaceful interaction and acceptance of diverse religious traditions within the multifaith Australian landscape and to not exile those different from Australia’s dominant Christianity.
    • The interfaith dialogue, outlined by the NCCA, is aimed to specifically integrate Christian, Jewish and
    • Islamic religions in Australia while also respecting smaller religious traditions in Australia. Appointed persons within the different religious communities are to strive for the acceptance of others from different religious contexts into their communities.
    • The interfaith dialogue aims to support other religious traditions in times of difficulty, encourage the awareness and participation of projects in the community and thus efficiency and more can be achieved with the combined efforts of those involved.

    Due to Australia’s current multicultural populous landscape, it is fundamental to maintain effective strategies such as the interfaith dialogue which enhances the sense of community and interaction between religious traditions resulting in combined efforts, such as pressuring politicians on issues concerning secularism for the integration of religion into society.
  5. Examine the relationship between Aboriginal spiritualities and religious traditions in the process of
    • Reconciliation is an important process for Australia, as links between the Indigenous peoples and non- Indigenous Australians are repaired and renewed. Thus, many religious traditions make concerted efforts to work towards reconciliation with other bodies.
    • For example,
    • 1. whilst the Jewish population is not large enough to form social services for Indigenous peoples on its own. It has made an ongoing commitment to support the work of Reconciliation Australia, a body which seeks to promote and build better relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. This way, the relationship between the Jewish community and the Aboriginal communities throughout Australia can be maintained and a mutual, understanding respect be further evolved.
    • 2 The establishment of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry (ACM) by the Sydney Catholic Archdiocese is another example of the strengthening relationship between the Aboriginal community and other groups in Australian society. This particular Ministry focussed on providing pastoral care for Aboriginals and education them and others about the spiritual issues of Reconciliation. This furthers the reconciliation by mending bonds between the non-indigenous traditions and Aboriginal peoples.

    The path to reconciliation has changed over the years, from self-determination to now main-streaming, now known as 'practical Reconciliation' rather than the public recognition by the government of past mistakes (however a formal apology was made to the Aboriginal community by Kevin Rudd, leader of the Labor Party in government 2008). This formalised and public apology was of great significance to the older and 'stolen' generations of the Aboriginal community. The speech was a strong link in the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and multifaith Australia and its peoples – the apology has helped integrate numerous Aboriginal communities into modern society
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Religious expression in Australia – 1945 to the present

HSC syllabus 2011
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