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Religious Studies: Unit 1 - Area of Study 2: Religious Traditions in Australia

Study Design Outcomes

Key Knowledge

  • Distribution of major religions throughout the world and in Australia today.
  • Expression of collective identity by religious traditions in Australia through their history and relevant aspects of religion.
  • Instances of interaction between different religious traditions in Australia, locally and in the wider national society.  

Key Skills

  • Describe the diversity of religious traditions in the world and in Australia today.
  • Explain how religious traditions express their collective identity through their history and their religious aspects (8 aspects).
  • Explain the nature of interaction between religious traditions in Australia, locally and in the wider national society.
  • Interpret and synthesise source material.

Study Design

Religious Traditions in Australia Today

Religion in Australia
This is a wikipedia resource, therefore you must cross-reference the information you take from here to ensure it is accurate. Use the bibliography links at the bottom of the page to find further information too.  

See the articles below for great 'big picture' summaries of Australia's religious landscape. 


ABS Religious Affiliation for 2011

ABS Website: 2006 Census Data for Religious Affiliations

Infographic  - scroll down to Religious Affiliation


Religion in the Current News 

Aboriginal Spirituality

Aboriginal Spirituality and beliefs

The Dreaming

Aboriginal Religion

Aboriginal Spirituality

European Impact on Aboriginal Spirituality Part 1, Part 2.

Dust Echoes
Animated cartoons of creation stories. 

ABC Indigenous Language Map

Judith Lucy's Spiritual Journey - Aboriginal Spirituality



An introduction to Christianity in Australia

Arrival of Christianity, also Christianity as a major tradition in Australia.

Catholic Australia

Catholic Church in Australia

Roman Catholic in Australia

Anglican Church of Australia

Greek Orthodox 

Greeks in Australia



Buddhism in Australia from Chung Tian Temple website.

An introduction to Buddhism in Australia

Buddhist Contribution to Social Welfare in Australia

Western Buddhists in Australia


Muslims in Australia: A Snap Shot (Government website)

An introduction to Islam in Australia

Arrival of Islam

Muslims still a side dish in Australia's melting pot (Article by Shahram Akbarzadeh from Melbourne University)

United Muslims of Australia (Youth group)

Muslim Australians (Government website)


An Introduction to Hinduism in Australia

Hindu Council of Australia

ABC: Hindus in Australia


An Introduction to Judaism in Australia

Arrival of Judaism

Different Streams of Judaism

Australian Jewish History

Other Resources

Government Summary Information: People, Culture and Lifestyle

Religious Affiliation 1947 & 2001 - Information about Religious Tradition adherents.  

Social Issues / Moral Topics Religions try to Influence




Gay Marriage 


History of World Religions


Islam in General

The True Story of Islam (Documentary) 

Part 1 -

Part 2 - 


Islam: Empire of Faith (PBS Documentary) 


BBC Islam

REOnline: Islam
Use the menu on the right.

BBC Schools Islam

British Museum Hajj Exhibition - Hajj Stories (Religious Experience) Excellent website. Videos.

Islam Depth Study 

Sacred Text: Qu'ran (also Koran)

Crash Course History: Islam 

Shia Islam

Sunni and Shia (BBC Religions)

Quick Guide: Sunni and Shias (BBC News)

Shi'a Islam (Religion Facts)

Shi' (Very complex information here)

Sunni Islam 

Sunni and Shia (BBC Religions)

Shia & Sunni

Quick Guide: Sunni and Shias (BBC News)

Sunni Islam (Religion Facts)


Sufi Islam 

Sufi Islam (Religion Facts)



Buddhism has two main branches:


Zen Buddism 

Zen Buddhism (BBC Religions)

Mahayana Buddhism (BBC Religions)

Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism (BBC Religions)

Mahayana Buddhism (BBC Religions)



Therevada Buddhism (BBC Religion)

Buddhism in General

The Life of Buddha (BBC Documentary) 

Buddha: A Documentary about Buddhism 

BBC Buddhism

REOnline: Buddhism 
Use the menu on the right.

The Buddhist Society: Teachings

BuddhaNet: Basic Buddhism Guide

The Buddhist Centre

An Ethical Approach to Environmental Protection 

Sacred Texts: The three main texts here. TiptakaEach Buddhist group has a number of texts.  

John Green Crash Course History: Buddha and Ashoka (The history behind the religion) 



BBC Hinduism

REOnline: Hinduism 
Use the menu on the right. 

BBC Schools Hinduism

Hindu Unity

Hinduism Depth Study

Sacred Texts:Vedas and more. Bhagavad-gita (includes commentaries)

John Green Crash Course History: Buddha and Ashoka (Includes Hinduism) 



Judaism has a number of Subdivisions:

  • Othodox Judaism
  • Conservative Judaism
  • Reform Judaism

Judaism in General

BBC Judaism

Judaism (NSW Board of Jewish Education) and more here

REOnline: Judaism 
Use the menu on the right. 

Religion Facts: Judaism

Judaism 101 (use the tabs across the top for more information)


Crash Course History Christianity from Judaism to Constantine 


Orthodox Judaism

Orthodox Judaism (BBC Religion)

Orthodox Judaism (Jewish Virtual Library)

Orthodox Judaism (Religion Facts)

Orthodox Jews


Conservative Judaism

Conservative Judaism

Reform Judaism

Reform Judaism


Examples of Religion in Australia

Video Clips from The Making of Modern Australia series.

Islam in Australia: Makiz Ansari and Islam (2mins).

Graeme Dunstan and Buddhism (2mins).

Chris Gresham Britt talks about being Christian (2mins)

Billy Graham's Crusade in Austrlia, 1959 (3mins).

Sikhs Become Part of the Woolgoolga Community (2mins)

Changing Faces in Woolgoolga, 1984 (3mins)

The Australian Soul episode - Watch through library catalogue (only available to watch whilst at school)

Other Documentary Clips

Add Religion & Stir by Peter Thomas (4 mins)

"This story captures the views of people from Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim & Jewish traditions about attitudes to their lives in the social environment of contemporary Australia."

Interfaith Dialogue

What is Interfaith Dialogue? 

"Interfaith dialogue is formal discussion aimed towards developing greater mutual understanding between different religious traditions. It rejects the belief that all religions are the same, and is not an attempt to unify different religious traditions, but while respecting the diversity of beliefs it allows different religions to come to a better appreciation of the uniqueness of each other.

Interfaith dialogue is not a forum for debate or evangelisation, fundamental disagreements about beliefs are accepted, and no attempt is made to try and prove the superiority of one belief system over another. However, from such discussions some common grounds may be found between religions. Through building such relationships, different religions may choose to work together on common projects, have interfaith prayer services, and stand publicly united on significant issues."

What does Interfaith Dialogue involve?

"Interfaith dialogue occurs across a range of different levels. In 1996 Pope John Paul II held an interfaith prayer service in the Domain in Sydney. In 2001 churches, synagogues and mosques in Sydney held reciprocal visits to pray for peace and express unity. Other examples of coming together include interfaith prayer services commemorating the Bali bombing and the Boxing Day Tsunami.

Similarly, different religious traditions work together on a range of social issues as a testament to many of the shared values underlying major religious traditions. Different religious traditions cooperate on issues such as poverty, unemployment, industrial rights, indigenous rights, land mines, nuclear testing and asylum seekers. Interfaith dialogue also takes place regularly on a local or grass roots level." 

Is Interfaith Dialogue important today?

"Australia is an increasingly pluralistic society in the sense that it is multi-cultural and multi-faith. Interfaith dialogue creates respect and appreciation for religious diversity which is essential for harmony and peace.

Historical and ongoing religious conflicts and persecution have often led to prejudice between religions that if not addressed can lead to division within the Australian community. Examples of suchinter-religious conflict, that have affected ethnic communities within Australia, include Muslims versus Jews (e.g. Palestine-Israel), Jews versus Christians (Pogroms in Russia), Christians versus Muslims (the Crusades & the Gulf Wars), Muslims versus Hindus (Pakistan-India), Hindus versus Buddhists (Sri Lanka), Buddhist versus Christian (Vietnam).

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the ongoing 'War on Terror', the Muslim community in Australia has been subjected to suspicion and persecution. Interfaith dialogue has been an important method ofworking to break down the stereotypes and prejudice towards Muslims.

Interfaith dialogue is also important to build relationships between different religions so they can more often and more effectively speak out on common issues and uphold shared values such as the dignity of the person, the sanctity of human life, care for those in need, justice and peace. In an increasingly secularised society interfaith dialogue can help different religions to stand together in proclaiming the importance of faith, spirituality and the transcendent aspects of life. Interfaith dialogue is also important in helping religions support one another, for when the rights of one religious group are challenged all others are ultimately in danger as well."

The above excellent summaries are from Studies of Religion.

Interfaith Dialogue Groups

Australian Partnerships of Religious Organisations (APRO)

  • National Council of Churches in Australia (Excellent summary here)
  • Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia (FECCA)
  • Australian Multicultural Foundation
  • World Conference of Religions for Peace (Australia)

 Jewish Christian Muslim Association of Australia (See the document at the bottom of this box)

From: InterAction (Victorian Youth Interfaith Dialogue Group, began in 2011)

"Two Big Implications for Interfaith

The first is fairly obvious. Interfaith has struggled to engage with people who have no religion or do not believe in God. Whilst 40 years ago this dearth did not seem so apparent, today, people who identify as having no religion comprise almost a quarter of our population. For interfaith to stay relevant, we have to bring everyone to the table. This is what we at InterAction, Australia’s first ever youth run interfaith organisation, have focused on over the past year.

At the end of 2011, we organised the Victorian Youth Interfaith Forum, which featured speakers from several interfaith and multicultural initiatives. One of the most profound speakers was a young man named Jason, an atheist who had participated in InterAction’s youth leadership program, iAct.

At the forum, Jason said: “I’m a secular humanist, because I choose to identify myself in terms of what I believe rather than what I don’t believe.” ... As it turns out, there isn’t much of a divide when a Buddhist talks to a bunch of atheists, actually!

The second important finding of the 2011 Census will resonate with those who are familiar with the interfaith space in Australia. Without going into too much detail, interfaith in Australia, until recently, focused largely around all three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. People of other faiths were often a second thought, if they were included at all.

The 2011 Census data shows us that non-Christian faiths in Australia are on the rise. Anyone who knows interfaith has known this for years. Now the Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’is, Sikhs, Jains, Zoroastrians, etc are brought to the table as equals.

At InterAction, the religious diversity of Australia is not a new discovery to us. Our founding members were from the Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Baha’i and Christian traditions. Since InterAction began in 2009, people who identify as atheists, agnostics (seekers), and everything in between have volunteered with us. It has been an enriching and eye-opening journey for each and every one of us."

Class discussion:

What are the key problems and ideas for the future that come out of InterAction's discussion on Interfaith Dialogue?


ABC Q&A: Interfaith Dialogue Response

ABC TV Program - Q&A: Faith & Love (Religion)

Q&A is a weekly discussion program on ABC that involves a panel of speakers talking about topical issues and chaired by Tony Jones. 


Quotes from InterAction - Victorian Youth Interfaith Dialogue Group 

"Last weeks Q & A was on the theme of “faith & love”.  For regular watchers of the show it promised an interesting diversion from the weekly banter and one-up-manship of politicians taking swings at each other on national television.  But sadly while the theme and the 5 panelists (Buddhist nun, Catholic Archbishop, Muslim Imam, Secular Jew, Atheist Comedian) promised much, it did little to raise the tone of the debate. 

Of the 60 minute show, probably 55 minutes were spent circling around three issues: homosexuality, paedophilia & terrorism.  While these are clearly the hot button issues when the topic of religion is raised in the public square, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad.  In our increasingly cosmopolitan society is religion going to remain forever pigeon-holed as cause of discrimination, perversion & war? Of course something must be done to reform religious traditions, but if all we do is talk about the problems within them how will religious traditions ever come to enact their core purpose – reforming and transforming ourselves and our world? Our society faces some huge challenges: economic collapse, climate change & extreme poverty being just a few.  The root causes of these issues are things which religious traditions were once-upon-a-time tasked with addressing: selfishness, greed, lack of empathy, etc.  

While the world’s faith traditions are ancient storehouses for tools needed when addressing the worlds issues, few people are looking into the vaults of the great faith traditions in search of an answer.  As long as the conversation remains fixated on the insane practices of those on the fringes of religious traditions (just as we saw on QandA), fewer and fewer people will look to religion as a legitimate source of inspiration.  If this is where we remain stuck, we will lose so much of humanities great wisdom.   While faith traditions certainly must shed some baggage of their own making, they posses so many assets of humanity that our world can’t afford to lose.  But how do we untangle what to keep and what is just baggage?  How do we live such ancient wisdom in a  modern way?  How can we change the conversation about religion?  And how do we bring both secular and religious communities along on this journey together? 

After last week’s show I’m left with more Q’s than A’s.  Changing the conversation about religion takes more than a one hour TV show."

History of Religion in Australia

Your Census Data Interactive:


Create a visually appealing and easy to understand snap shot of the History of Religions in Australia using the online software and primary sources. Visually display the key data and outline the key trends. 


Step 1: Using the 1911 Census Data, complete a section of the table and discuss facts about the census.

Step 2: In pairs, select a historical census. Locate the national religion data. Calculate the appropriate numbers and place these into the table. As a class collaborate on filling the table.

Step 3: Look at the data in the table we created and in the Religious Affiliation bar graph here (scroll down). Can you identify any trends (increases, decreases, changes in numbers)? What could account for these changes? Note them in Padlet.

Step 4: Look through the historical events list below, c

an you match any of the trends to historical events?


Step 5: Use the software to create an infographic to display the information the class has collated in the table.

Step 6: Email your infogram URL to your teacher.

Step 7: Read through the following document: Religion in Australia . Highlight important points about reasons for change in religious numbers in Australia. Summarise 4 key understandings you now have about the history of religion in Australia. (What are 4 statements you can now make about religion in Australia?)

Historical Events


  • In the 1950s, immigration was primarily from Christian European countries.
  • Since 1971, 20% of Australia's population was born overseas.
  • Pentecostal and Evangelical religions are increasing in Australia, growth of non-traditional Christian Churches - 2000s.
  • Wars
    • WWI - 1914-18 (rise of the occult)
    • WWII - 1939-45
    • Vietnam - 1962-75 and immigration from South East Asia
  • Spanish Influenza - 1918-19
  • White Australia Policy changes - 1945.
  • Terror Attacks - 2001
  • Snowy River Scheme - 1949-70s(?) Hydro-electric scheme. Orthodox Christians from Greece and the Middle East, Catholics from Poland, Italy, Hungary and Vietnam.
  • Buddhism and Chinese miners arrive in 1848.
  • Muslims and Hindus came to Australia throughout the 19th Century to work on cotton and sugar plantations and as cameleers, divers and sailors.
  • Strife in Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan
  • Immigration from Turkey, Egypt and other parts of the Middle East.

Summary Document: Religion in Australia
This is a challenging document but it contains a very detailed and articulate summary of Religion in Australia.



Discuss: "The recent re-discovery of religion in Australia, as evidenced by the rise of American-style churches against a longer tradition of religious decline, has occurred because the secular, individualistic, and materialistic culture that has prevailed in Australia until now has proven to be unsatisfying and inauthentic."

Write a 200 word response to the above quote. Email your response to your teacher.





Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

ABS website > Select 'Census Data' > Scroll down to 'Historical Data' > Page with all historical census on it. Select the census' that are appropriate for your task and extract the relevant data out of them.



Religion in Australia - Talk page in Wikipedia (Census data queries)

ABC Census Data 2011: Religious Affiliation