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New look of religion in SA


Nearly half of South Australians identified themselves as Christian, with more than 300,000 of them Catholics, according to figures released from the 2016 Census.

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Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that 49.1 per cent of South Australians or 823,426 people indicated they were Christian, down just over 9 per cent from the 2011 figure. In contrast, the number of people identifying with non-Christian religions rose to 6 per cent of the population (100,048 people), with the main groups being Buddhism (31,289), Islam (28,547) and Hinduism (22,922).

Figures revealed our State was not too dissimilar to the rest of Australia when it came to religion, with a few exceptions.

For example, the proportion of people identifying as Catholic and Anglican was considerably lower in SA. Nationally, nearly 5.3 million people or 22.6 per cent identified as Catholic, while in South Australia that figure was 18 per cent, or 301,034 people – a 5.3 per cent decrease since the 2011 Census. The number of Anglicans in the State dropped by 16.4 per cent, from 200,439 in 2011 to 167,658 last year.

The number of South Australians selecting ‘no religion’ was also much higher than the national figure – at 36 per cent (602,957) – compared to 30.1 per cent nationally (just more than seven million people). Almost one in 10 people chose not to answer the optional religious affiliation question in the Census.

Stephen Reid, acting director of the Pastoral Research Office at the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said at this stage they were not sure why there has been a 7.2 per cent decline in Christian denominations or where the decline was most vigorous, “although we can hypothesise to some extent”.

“However, I don’t think we can discount the role religion plays in the lives of many Australians, given the numbers of people who continue to identify with a religious group.

“Nor can we presume that just because some did not answer the question on the Census form (it was the only optional question), or answered ‘no religion’, that they do not hold some religious beliefs or spirituality. The Census data cannot tell us anything about those beliefs, attitudes or activities,” he said.

Census data based on Catholic parish and diocesan boundaries will be available later this year


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