About 4,000 years ago various peoples migrated through Southeast Asia and settled on the islands of Melanesia (‘islands of dark – people’), namely Indonesia; and the Papua New Guinea territory. These and along with Austronesian people found Australia and became todays Indigenous or Aboriginal Australians. Centuries before European’s sailed to the continent, the indigenous ‘dark’ people were trading with the Indonesians. It is estimated that their population was about 1 million to 1.3 million in 1500.
Dutch navigators charted parts of what they called ‘New Holland’ since 1616. It was between 1768 and his death in 1779, that Captain James Cook of the British Royal Navy mapped much of the lands in the Pacific Ocean from New Zealand to Hawaii as he circumnavigated our planet. Rounding Cape Horn and passing Tahiti April 1769, he and his crew sailed to New Zealand and reached Australia April 1770. He claimed the land for Great Britain and named it New South Wales. The British first met the Gweagal of the Tharawal Aborigines; and by 1788 establishing settlements.
In 1788, British Captain Phillip founded a penal settlement at Sydney; bringing 800 British convicts. The British carried with them European diseases; namely smallpox (some say it was chickenpox) which is said to have killed most of the Darug tribe in 1789. In 1803, the British began to colonized Tasmania and Victoria; then in 1824 Queensland and the Northern Territory; and soon after Western Australia. At that time there were maybe a quarter million indigenous Australians; but by 1900 their population was only about 100,000 (currently over 550,000).
February 1788, Rev. Richard Johnson of the Church of England held the first Christian service in Australia. In 1803, the first public Catholic mass was held; and in 1836 the first Catholic Church was built in the country; along the British had already brought with them practices of the Church of England (Anglicans). Around 1814, the land was called ‘Terra Australis.’ After gold was found in the 1850s even more Europeans came to Australia.
In 1856, the country held elections and proceeded to become an English Nation with Christianity as its religion taught in schools. By about 1880, all the colonies ended the funding of denominational or Anglican schools; yet, Christianity was still taught in most and churches owned nearly all the non-governmental schools. The opening of the first Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia in May 1901 was done as a Christian Service. ‘Prayer and Praise’ was offered after “God save the King;” and before the singing of the “Hundredth Psalm” with the accompaniment of an orchestra.
|The Governor-General read in part the following prayer: “O Lord, our heavenly Father, high and mighty, King of kings, Lord of lords, the only Ruler of princes, who dost from Thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth, most heartily we beseech Thee with Thy favour to behold our most gracious Sovereign Lord King Edward, and so replenish him with the grace of Thy Holy Spirit that he may always incline to Thy will and walk in Thy way. Endue him plenteously with heavenly gifts, grant him in health and wealth long to live, strengthen him that he may vanquish and overcome all his enemies; and finally, after this life he may attain everlasting joy and felicity, through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Amen… Almighty God, we humbly beseech Thee to regard with Thy merciful favour the people of this land, now united in one Commonwealth. We pray for Thy servants the Governor-General, the Governors of the States, and all who are or who shall be associated with them in the administration of their several offices…” May 1901 Parliament|
After tens of thousands (61,000+) of Australians were killed during WWI, the nation signed its first political treaty joining the League of Nations (June 1919). Even then Australia was predominantly Christian as its English population reached about 5 million. Like many nations the country went through a Great Depression after WWI and during the 1920s. The Aussies entered WWII in 1939 when its population was about 7 million where nearly 40,000 were killed.
In 1986, Hawke was Prime Minister and started a New Schools Policy that prevented new private schools where there was not shown a need. This action kept religious schools from growing. The act was overturned in 1996, during Prime Minister Howard’s administration. Up until about 2012, the government had funded ‘Chaplains’- nearly all Christian, to public and private, primarily and secondary schools (about $20,000 each). In 2014, reversing its 2012 ruling, the Nation’s High Court ruled the National Schools Chaplaincy Program ($60+ million per year) was unconstitutional based on religious bias. Nevertheless, the Australian Government, through the Department of Education and Training, funds a portion of the recurrent costs of non-government schools.
According to the 2011 Australian National Census and data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 68% of the population stated they were Christian in 2011.
However, though about 68% stated they were Christians, according to a McCrindle Research study, by 2013 just 61.1% identified as Christians and only 8% attended religious services at least once a month in 2013. McCrindle Research found 92% of the nation are non-church goers. They still had about 13,000 churches with 1.8 million attending regularly of its 23 million people. Below the study reveals the ‘Top 6 Reasons Why Aussies Don’t Go To Church.’
The 2016 census revealed the fact that Christianity was no longer going to be the practice of the majority of Australians. Note that much less that those that state they are practice the religion.
The 2016 Census found that Islam and Secularism (no religion, atheists, agnostics, etc.) was growing faster than Christianity. The professed non-religious increased by about 12% or by more than 1 in 9 citizens in just a decade; from 18.7% to 30.1% or just over 3 in 10 citizens. Perhaps the significance is shown stating that the non-religious rose from 16% in 2001 to 30% in 2016. The non-religious by census and polls (much more by practice) more than doubled from 2000 to 2017 (approximately 15% to 31% +).
And 9.6% of the population did not answer the religion portion of the census which would have increased the non-religious numbers. Also with 1.3 million migrants since 2011 and about 350,000 of those from China and India, this has increased those religions and non-religion (atheists, etc.) outside Christianity.
A different way of stating the decline in Christianity is that Christianity dropped from 96% in 1911 to 88% in 1966, to 74% in 1991, to about 51% in 2016. More so, in 6 of the 8 states, Australia does not have even a professed Christian majority, much less those practicing.
According to McCrindle Research, ‘no religion’ tripled from 6.7% in 1971 to 22.3 in 2011; and as shown over 30% in 2016. But the Research center stated that when asked does this statement apply to you, “I consider myself a Christian,” only 38% agreed. A National Church Life Survey (NCLS) revealed that Australians attending church at least once per month dropped by more than half from 36% in 1972 to less than 15% in 2011. They noted that the 20-40 year old group made up about 35% of the population but just about 21% of church attenders. As Christianity declines and immigration form non-Christian nations increases; Muslims, Buddhists and Hindis have seen increases between 200% and 500% since the 2011 census – with about 7% of the current 2017 population. When added to the Non-religious, other religions and non-answering it totals about 40%; but if the truly non-practicing/non-doctrinal believing Christians where added this total would be much over 50% or 60%; perhaps 2 in 3 Australians.
Though Australia is home to HillSong Church (Hillsong.com) and some of the best Christian worship music in the world; it is also home to a strengthening atheists and non-religious movement. The decline in the Christian faith is the result of governmental decisions, teachings in the universities, lack of practice by former Church goers and the general spirit of the world. In 2009, the fall could be seen by only 68% of Aussies saying they believed in God; and 6% of those were Muslims, Jews and other. According to a Nielsen poll about the same time; only 53% of Australians believed in ‘Life after Death’ according to the Bible. But more telling is the fact that in 2009; only 47% of Australians stated they believed Jesus died on the Cross, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven and is the Son of God. When asked if Christ would return to Earth, only 37% agreed in 2009. And that number has only decreased, as the non-religious have increased – thus, proving Australia is no longer a Christian Nation.