Census sees Christianity drop and first same-sex marriage count

census cross church religion data same-sex marriage same-sex couples
Images: Pixabay, Australian Bureau of Statistics

Fewer than half of Australians identify as Christian for the first time and more than ever before report “no religion”, according to 2021 Census data.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics conducts the Census, surveying every Australian and household, every five years. The ABS published the first round of 2021 data today.

On Census night last year, 38.9 per cent of the Australian population reported having “no religion”. That’s up from 30 per cent in 2016 and 22 per cent in 2011.

For the first time, less than half of Australians identified as Christian, at 43.9 per cent of the population.

That’s a drop from more than 50 per cent in 2016, and more than 60 per cent in 2011.

In the 2021 Census, the number of Hindus (2.7 per cent of the population) and Muslims (3.2 per cent) grew, though both groups remain small minorities.

Australian Statistician Dr David Gruen said the Census question on religion was voluntary, but popular.

“It is one of the few topics that has been in every one of Australia’s 18 censuses and is the only question that’s voluntary,” he said.

“Despite being voluntary, we saw an increase in the proportion of people answering the question, from 91 per cent in 2016 to 93 per cent in 2021.”

Census officially counts same-sex marriages for first time

The 2021 Census was the first since same-sex marriage passed into law in Australia in December 2017.

Last year, 23,914 same-sex marriages were counted in the Census.

But the Australian Bureau of Statistics hasn’t yet published how many non-married same-sex couples living together declared their relationship last year.

In 1996, the Census counted 10,215 couples nationwide. But in 2011, that had grown to 33,714 same-sex couples and then 46,769 in 2016.

However the Census only measures relationships within each household, and doesn’t count same-sex couples who aren’t living together.

LGBTIQ advocates slam Census question

The 2021 Census did not include any specific questions on whether people identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, despite lobbying from advocates.

Last year, Australians were able to identify themselves as “non-binary sex” on the Census for the first time.

But LGBTIQ advocates warned the poorly-worded and confusing question had likely led to misleading and inaccurate data.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said it would not release that data today.

A spokesperson said the ABS would conduct “more analysis” on the responses later this year in consultation with LGBTIQ+ stakeholders.

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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