« Austin, John Australia Austria »



History (§ 1).

Relation to England (§ 2).

Church and State. General Statistics (§ 3).

Anglican Church (§ 4).

Other Protestants (§ 5).

Roman Catholics (§ 6).

Non-Christian Religions (§ 7).

Missions Among Aborigines (§ 8).

Education (§ 9).

1. History.

Australia is a continent and a federal commonwealth that includes, for administrative purposes, the island of Tasmania; it consists of five states, with a population of about 3,670,000 in 1901, in addition to the 172,000 inhabitants of Tasmania. In 1788 Sydney, in the present state of New South Wales, was founded, chiefly as a penal settlement, but the immigration of freemen continued side by side with that of criminals until 1840, while after 1835 the latter class of settlers entered the colony in considerable numbers. In the present Western Australia and Queensland penal settlements were established at King George Sound and Brisbane in 1825 and 1826, while Adelaide and South Australia were settled in 1836. In consequence of the rich discoveries of gold Victoria was formed into a new colony in 1851, and Queensland was separated from New South Wales eight years later. These districts enjoyed the utmost independence, especially after 1855, but the need of union was increasingly felt, so that on Jan. 1, 1901, a confederation of all the colonies and Tasmania was formed under the name of the Commonwealth of Australia. The administration consists of the Governor-General, seven ministers, a senate of six members from each of the allied states, and a house of seventy-six representatives. In addition to this, each state has its own parliament and president.

2. Relation to England.

The legal bond of Australia with the mother country is extremely loose, since the power of the English Governor-General is restricted to a temporary veto with regard to foreign affairs. On the other hand, by far the greater majority of the population recognize themselves as united with the mother country by descent, language, and religion, so that Australia and England are knit together by internal bonds other than political. The import and export trade, moreover, is carried on chiefly with England, which is also the principal creditor of the national debt of Australia. The immigrants naturally transplanted their ecclesiastical tendencies and institutions into their new home, and the religious communities of Australia are vitally connected with those of the mother country as well as with other British colonies, thus further cementing the internal union of Australia and England.

3. Church and State. General Statistics.

An external union of Church and State was long maintained in Australia, the state finances paying the greater part of the salaries of the clergy and contributing largely to the building of churches and parish expenses until the seventh decade of the nineteenth century. The dissolution of this relation, begun by New South Wales in 1862, brought little disadvantage to the larger denominations, and of the smaller sects only the Lutherans (chiefly Germans) suffered severely by the change.

The following table gives results of the census of 1901, to which figures for 1891 are added for comparison:

  New South Wales Queensland South Australia Tasmania Victoria West Australia
Anglicans, 1901 . . . . 823,200 185,060 107,000 88,850 424,000 75,650
    ”    , 1891 . . . . 508,000 142,600 89,300 76,100 417,200 24,800
Presbyterians, 1901 . 132,700 57,650 18,400 11,550 192,000 14,750
    ”       , 1891 . 109,400 45,650 18,200 9,800 167,050 2,000
Methodists, 1901 . . . 137,700 46,600 90,000 25,000 182,000 24,600
    ”      , 1891 . . . 110,150 30,900 60,850 17,200 158,050 4,600
Congregationalists and Independents, .            
   1901 . . . . . . . . . . 24,900 9,800 13,400 5,600 17,200 4,450
   1891 . . . . . . . . . . 24,120 8,600 11,900 4,510 22,210 1,580
Lutherans, 1901 . . . . 7,400 22,550 26,200 400 14,100 1,750
    ”    , 1891 . . . 7,950 23,400 23,350 1,100 9,400 950
Baptists, 1901 . . . . . . 16,650 12,300 22,000 4,800 83,000 2,950
    ”  , 1891 . . . . . . 13,150 10,300 17,600 3,300 27,900 1,000
Total, 1901 . . . . . . . . 942,550 336,950 277,000 131,200 862,300 124,150
  ”  , 1891 . . . . . . . . 767,770 261,450 221,200 112,010 801,810 34,930

To the figures for 1901 are to be added 1,240 Quakers, 3,100 Unitarians, 22,050 who reported themselves simply as Protestants (the majority probably Germans), 11,660 ” Christians,” and 24,200 adherents of smaller bodies. The Salvation Army numbered 31,150. The sum total of the Protestant population of the Commonwealth is therefore in the neighborhood of two and three quarter millions.

The Roman Catholics are also strong in Australia, as is shown by the following table:

  New South Wales Queensland South Australia Tasmania Victoria West Australia
1901 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 847,150 120,700 52,200 30,350 260,050 40,800
1891 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 286,950 92,800 47,200 25,900 240,800 12,500

Adding 6,200 who designated themselves simply as ” Catholics,” the sum total is 857,450.

4. Anglican Church.

The ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the religious bodies naturally conforms to the political boundaries of the states, although, as in case of the states, unions, either temporary or permanent, have been formed. The oldest and most prominent Protestant body in Australia is the Anglican Church, with a membership of 1,498,750. Services were held as early as 1788, although the bishopric of Australia (including Tasmania and New Zealand) was not created until 1836. In 1847 three new bishoprics were created and the former bishop of Australia became bishop of Sydney and metropolitan of 377Australia and Tasmania. In 1897 the incumbent was made archbishop of Sydney and he has the title of primate of Australia. He is elected by the Australian bishops, but must be confirmed by the archbishop of Canterbury. At present the province of New South Wales includes, besides the primatial see of Sydney, the dioceses of Bathurst (founded 1869), Goulburn (1863), Grafton and Armidale (1867), Newcastle (1847), and Riverina (1883). The province of Victoria comprises the dioceses of Ballarat (1875), Bendigo (1902), Gippsland (1902), Melbourne (1847), and Wangaratta (1902). The province of Queensland includes the dioceses of Brisbane (1859), North Queensland (1878), Rockhampton (1892), New Guinea (1896), and Carpentaria (1900). Further, there are the independent dioceses of Tasmania, with seat at Hobart (1842); Adelaide, for South Australia (1847); Perth (1857) and Bunbury (1903), in West Australia. Each bishopric manages its own affairs, diocesan conventions being convened from time to time by the bishop and attended by both clergy and laity. The chief business of these conventions concerns finance, the education of clergy, and relations to other ecclesiastical bodies. In 1872 a regular organization was adopted which unites the dioceses of the present Commonwealth under the primate of Sydney. Clerical and lay representatives of these sees assemble every five years at Sydney for general conference and legislation. In education the Anglican Church is important chiefly through a number of colleges under its supervision.

5. Other Protestants.

The Presbyterians, who numbered 427,000 in the Commonwealth in 1901, belong to several branches. Their first minister was installed at Sydney in 1823. The synod of each state and the general assembly meet annually. The Australian Methodists in 1901 were 506,000 strong. After the census of that year, which showed seven branches of Methodists in New South Wales, the union of the entire denomination was effected by the establishment of the ” Methodist Church of Australia,” first in three colonies, and in 1902 in the remainder. The first Wesleyan service in Australia was held in 1821, but a. Methodist conference was not established until 1854; it was at first affiliated with the British conference, becoming independent in 1876. An annual conference is held in each colony, and the general conference meets triennially, while every ten years the Australian Methodists take part in the international Methodist Ecumenical Conference. The Baptists of Australia numbered 91,700 in 1901, although they did not begin to increase rapidly until after 1852, their gains being due primarily to their missionary activity in cooperation with the larger denominations already mentioned. The Congregationalists, including the Independents, numbered 75,350 in 1901, but can scarcely be considered a united and influential religious community on account of their basal principle.

6. Roman Catholics.

The Roman Catholic Church in the commonwealth, with 857,450 members, is divided into five provinces. Although Roman Catholic priests were in Australia as early as 1803, it was not until 1820 that the Church came to a vigorous development with the aid of State subvention of clergy and buildings. In 1834 Sydney became the seat of a vicar apostolic with twenty-five priests, and eight years later was elevated into an archbishopric and the seat of a metropolitan for Australia and the islands, Hobart and Adelaide being suffragan sees, although they did not remain in the province of Sydney, which now includes Maitland (1847), Armidale (1862), Goulburn (1862), Bathurst (1865), Lismore (formerly Grafton; 1887), and Wilcannia (1887). The second oldest archbishopric is Melbourne, which was created a diocese in 1847 and elevated to an archdiocese in 1874. To it belong the bishoprics of Sandhurst (1874), Ballarat (1874), and Sale, the southeastern part of Victoria (1887). In 1887 Adelaide and Brisbane (founded as bishoprics in 1842 and 1859) were made archbishoprics. The province of the former comprises the dioceses of Perth (1845); Victoria, formerly Palmerston, in the north, opposite Melville Island (1847); Port Augusta, on Spencer Gulf (1887); and Geraldton (1898); also the abbacy of New Norcia (founded on Moore River in 1867) and the apostolic vicarship of Kimberley (1887). Brisbane includes the bishopric of Rockhampton (1881) and the apostolic vicarships of Cooktown (founded in 1876 and placed for the most part in the charge of the Augustinians for missionary purposes) and Queensland (1887). The fifth province is Hobart (Tasmania), founded as a bishopric in 1842, raised to metropolitan rank in 1888. Many of these dioceses contain but few Roman Catholics, and were poor in ecclesiastical institutions and churches at the time of their creation. With the rapid increase of immigration after the seventh decade of the nineteenth century, however, and in the determination to resist the propaganda of Protestant denominations, orders and congregations were brought to Australia at an early period, and were particularly active in missions and parochial schools. The most extensive settlements were those of the Jesuits, the Marists, the Dominicans, and the Brothers of the Christian Schools, although the Benedictines were the first to arrive. The most active female orders are the Sisters of Charity, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, and the Sisters of St. Joseph. Roman Catholic associations flourish in all the cities, and schools of all kinds, especially intermediate, are under ecclesiastical control, while Roman Catholic newspapers and weeklies promote the interests of this Church. Synods of the Roman Catholic clergy of Australia have thrice been held, the first being in 1844.

7. Non-Christian Religions.

The number of Jews in Australia is relatively small; there were in 1901 only 14,850, of whom 6,450 were in New South Wales and 5,910 in Victoria. Mohammedans, chiefly from India and the Sunda Islands, numbered scarcely 4,500, chiefly in Queensland. Confucians and Buddhists were not carefully distinguished in every colony, as is clear from the grave discrepancy between the number of Chinese immigrants and 378the figures assigned to Confucianism and Buddhism. The majority of Buddhists live in New South Wales, while the most of the Confucians are found in Queensland and Victoria. The estimated number of the latter in the Commonwealth is between 15,000 and 16,000, and that of the former more than 7,000.

8. Missions Among Aborigines.

Polytheists and fetish-worshipers come from the islands of the Pacific, the Philippines, and the Sunda Islands; it is uncertain how large a proportion of this category is made up of the aborigines. By far the greater number of Australian blackfellows have been converted to Christianity by missionary activity in their behalf, although the precarious conditions of life and the poverty of nature in the interior render it extremely difficult to reach the natives in that region, and the obstacles are augmented by their spiritual and moral degradation. Nevertheless, not only the larger denominations, but also the smaller, such as the Lutherans and the Quakers, are engaged in missionary activity among the aborigines. There are, in addition, special societies under the auspices of the Anglican Church and unions of several denominations, such as the Aborigines’ Protection Mission, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, the Free Mission (in New South Wales), and the Australian Board of Missions (in Victoria). The missions of the Roman Catholic Church are chiefly in the north. The number of unconverted Australian aborigines is estimated between 10,000 and 20,000. Several missions have also been established for workmen in the gold mines. The number of those who profess to be without a religion, such as freethinkers and the like, is inconsiderable, the census returning less than 24,000 of this class; to this group, however, should doubtless be added many of those who declined to answer the question concerning their religion, so that the number can probably be doubled.

9. Education.

The public schools of Australia underwent an important change in the eighth decade of the nineteenth century, when obligatory gratuitous instruction was introduced into all the colonies. While many schools are still maintained by religious denominations, all citizens contribute to the support of the public schools. The intermediate schools, on the other hand, are, for the most part, under denominational control and of denominational origin. Popular Christian education is also furthered by the Sunday-schools, which are well attended.

Wilhelm Goetz.

Bibliography: G. W. Rusden, History of Australia, 3 vols., London, 1883; T. A. Coghlan, Statistical Account of the Seven Colonies of Australia, Sydney, 1891; R. R. Garran, The Coming Commonwealth; a Handbook of Federal Government, ib. 1897; P. F. Moran, Hist. of the Catholic Church in Australasia, ib. 1897; W. Westgarth, Half a Century of Australian Progress, London, 1899; Australian Handbook, ib. 1902; W. H. Moore, Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, ib. 1902; Encyclopedia Britannica, Supplement, s.v.

« Austin, John Australia Austria »
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