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New data to aid pastoral planning


A social profile of the Adelaide Archdiocese, based on the 2021 Australian Census, will assist in the processing of pastoral planning by giving a clear picture of the diocese’s demographic reality.

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Prepared by the National Centre for Pastoral Research (NCPR), the Diocesan Social Profile reveals that the number of people identifying as Catholic is 253,871 or 15.7 per cent of population. This is a drop of 2.4 per cent from 2016 when 274,135 people ticked the Catholic box in the Census.

There was an increase of 4.2 per cent in the number of Catholics aged over 65 years from the previous Census in 2016 and an increase of 2.2 per cent of Catholics from Non-English speaking countries.

The statistics also show an increase in the percentage of Catholics attending Catholic schools – 54.4 per cent in 2021 compared to 52.9 per cent in 2016.

Professor Gabrielle McMullen, chair of the Australian Catholic Council for Pastoral Research, said the social profile reports are a major undertaking every five years, but a highly valued resource for diocesan leaders.

“If you are a bishop or head of Catholic education or the evangelisation office, having robust data on demographics like the age of Catholics, the language they speak at home or their education level will help you engage meaningfully with them,” she said.

“Reports of this type are the envy of the Catholic Church in other countries and of other denominations and faiths in Australia. They are a credit to the Bishops Conference and its expert National Centre for Pastoral Research.”

Trudy Dantis, director of the Centre, said working with such a large and rich data set allows for some interesting findings to surface.

“We find, for example, that one archdiocese – Melbourne – has more than 20 per cent of the Australian Catholic population across its more than 200 parishes,” Dr Dantis said.

“The Dioceses of Wagga Wagga, Bathurst and Parramatta each have 25 per cent or more of their overall population who are Catholic, well above the national average of 20 per cent.

“At 50, Lismore and Hobart have the highest average ages for Catholics, which we contrast with Broome at 33 and Darwin at 37.”

Professor McMullen said each report yields interesting statistics which might surprise, or confirm, the expectations that people had.

“By reflecting on the data in these reports, it takes the guesswork out of pastoral and mission planning and other discernment about the needs of a community – especially when paired with other reports at the local or national level,” she said.

A snapshot of the Adelaide Archdiocese:

The 2021 Diocesan Social Profiles can be accessed at:


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