Many Religions, All Australian

Book Cover, Many Religions, All Australian

Quietly, with comparatively little drama, a large number of very different religious groups came and settled in Australia, becoming part of the landscape, part of Australian life and society

Quietly, with comparatively little drama, a large number of very different religious groups came and settled in Australia, becoming part of the landscape, part of Australian life and society. As these groups have settled in they have come to be accepted such that now Australian society can be described as having many religions, all Australian. Hence the title, Many Religions, All Australian.

We know something of the process through which individual immigrants come to be Australians, but how do religions become Australian? This question is addressed by the concept of religious settlement as developed in this book. Not only does Australia have many religions, but these religions have become or are becoming Australian.

One of the unintended consequences of post-war immigration to Australia has been a dramatic alteration in the religious profile of this society as several religious groups have settled in substantial numbers. Part of becoming multicultural has involved becoming religiously plural. Coping with, adjusting to and finally celebrating this religious diversity has involved a great deal of quiet effort on the part of many Australians in religious organisations, in social agencies and governmental departments. The result has been a peaceful transition from a time in which one religious group dominated the religious culture of Australia to a time in which power, legitimacy and influence are shared among a wide variety of Christian and other religious groups. In this process religious groups have come to see themselves as part of Australia, indeed as Australian.

Australia is a success story of religious settlement involving highly diverse religious groups. Other nations have been less successful in achieving as peaceable, productive and cooperative a religious environment. This is not because Australia has become increasingly secular, because in many ways religion is more important, more on the agenda now than before. Reasons for this successful transition include the Australian institution of giving others a ‘fair go’, Australian experiences in the 19th century with religious sectarianism, 20th century ecumenism, the Australian pattern of funding primary and secondary education, and a history of resolving conflict by reference to courts of law. The framework provided by Australia’s civic values of tolerance, equality, and freedom of speech and religion together with the structures of constitutional parliamentary democracy and the rule of law have worked together to enable this transition.

The newly emergent religious diversity in Australia presents challenges including justice and equity issues related to religion-based harassment, and discrimination. A cautionary note is sounded regarding the excesses of some religious groups. The book concludes with a set of recommendations from the team of contributors. While Australia is well on its way to a productive and cooperative religiously plural society, more effort and continued watchfulness is required to ensure that this trend continues and is not wound back by misguided majoritarianism.

Many Religions, All Australian is published by the Christian Research Association assisted by a grant from Monash University. It is the result of a research project conducted by the World Conference on Religion and Peace supported by a grant from the Bureau of Immigration, Multicultural and Population Research.

ISBN: 1-875223-14-2, available from the Christian Research Association.