Gaining population but losing our religion

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Christianity remains the most common religion in Australia but there was a big drop in the number of people identifying as Christian. Photo by Rodney Braithwaite

The results of the latest national census show Australia is a fast-changing, growing and culturally-diverse nation.

The 2021 census counted nearly 25.5 million people in Australia, excluding overseas visitors, on census night, two million people or 8.6 per cent more than in 2016.

The census counted more than 800,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on census night, 3.2 per cent of the total counted and an increase of more than 25 per cent since 2016.

Australia continues to become more diverse, with more than one million residents arriving in Australia from 2017 to 2021.

Over four out of every five (83.7 per cent) of these arrivals were in 2017 to 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

With these new arrivals, the proportion of Australian residents born overseas (or have a parent born overseas) has risen to 51.5 per cent of the population.

The largest increase in country of birth, outside Australia, was India with 220,000 (217,963) additional people counted.

India has moved past China and New Zealand to become the third-largest country of birth behind Australia and England.

The census provides rich information about the nation, giving insight into cultural diversity, families and homes, to how we changed during the pandemic.

“Every stat tells a story and today we are sharing a glimpse into the stories of almost 25.5 million Australians,” Australian statistician Dr David Gruen said.

“This accurate and valuable data reveals who we are as a nation and how we have changed.”

The 2021 census counted more than 5.5 million couple families, of which 53 per cent have children living with them and 47 per cent do not have children living with them.

For the first time, the census recorded more than a million one parent families of which four out of every five of those parents were female.

Christianity is the most common religion in Australia with more than 40 per cent, although the figure was down 10 per cent from 2016.

The largest Christian denominations are Catholic (20.0 per cent) and Anglican (9.8 per cent).

While fewer people are reporting their religion as Christian, more are reporting ‘no religion’ with nearly 40 per cent of Australia’s population marking no religion in the 2021 census, an increase from 30 per cent (30.1 per cent) in 2016.