Being spiritual in Australia: Complexity, contemplation and controversy

University of MelbourneThe Contemplative Studies Centre of Melbourne University presents Dr. Anna Halafoff – a well known researcher of spirituality, religion and interfaith matters – who will address Being spiritual in Australia: Complexity, contemplation and controversy. This session is offered online, on June 8, 12:00pm – 1:00pm. This webinar is free.

Growing numbers of Australians are identifying as ‘spiritual but not religious’ and ‘spiritual and religious’. There has also been a significant uptake of spiritual practices in the wellness industry, such as meditation, yoga and conscious dance, over the past decade, and a rise of ‘conspirituality’ during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, spirituality is typically not taken as seriously as religion, at least in official political and academic spheres. European scholars argue that spirituality is marginalised due to its association with women and the private sphere.

In this presentation, Dr Anna Halafoff draws on earlier Australian scholarship on spirituality in Australia, by David Tacey and Gary D. Bouma, and recent studies on the world views of Australia’s Generation Z and conspirituality in Australia, to examine the complex history and contemporary dynamics of spirituality in this country. She argues that not only have First Nations and Asian spiritualities been largely excluded by secular, modern, patriarchal, and colonial direct, structural, and conceptual violence in Western societies, but that consequently the importance of rest, stillness, silence, and listening have been under-appreciated in studies of religion which focus more on people’s actions and beliefs, rather than non-action and non-conceptual awareness.

She also agrees with Tacey that the Australian ideal of being “young and free”, has led to a stifling of wisdom in the upper echelons of this society. At the same time, research shows that everyday Australians are attuned to something deeper, and find meaning, connection and healing by slowing down, and in relationship with the more-than-human, natural world. This is what they describe as being spiritual.

Date: Wednesday 8 June 2022
Time: 12:00pm – 1:00pm
Host: Contemplative Studies Centre
Location: Webinar
Cost: Free
Register: Online at UniMelb


Dr Anna Halafoff, Deakin University

Dr Anna Halafoff

Dr Anna Halafoff is Associate Professor in Sociology of Religion in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University, Australia. She is also a member of the Alfred Deakin Institute’s Science and Society Network, Centre for Resilient and Inclusive Societies (CRIS) Consortium, and AVERT (Addressing Violent Extremism and Radicalisation to Terrorism) Research Network.

Anna is a Chief Investigator on two Australian Research Council Discovery Projects on the Worldviews of Generation Z Australians and on Religious Diversity in Australia. Her other research interests include interreligious relations, religion and education, preventing violent extremism, contemporary spirituality, and Buddhism in Australia.

She is the author of The Multifaith Movement: Global Risks and Cosmopolitan Solutions, co-editor (with Marian DeSouza) of Re-Enchanting Education and Spiritual Wellbeing: Fostering Belonging and Meaning-making for Global Citizens and co-author (with Andrew Singleton, Mary Lou Rasmussen, and Gary Bouma) of Freedoms, Faiths and Futures: Teenage Australians on Religion, Sexuality and Diversity.

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