Australian Language facts

Even though English is not officially recognized as a national language in Australia, it is widely spoken and understood by the majority of the population. Despite this, hundreds of Aboriginal languages exist, however many have died out since 1950 and most of those that remain have just a few native speakers. There are still an estimated 8,000 speakers of Mabuiag, a language spoken in the western Torres Strait Islands, and 4,000 users of the Mojave Desert dialect. Additionally, it is estimated that about 1 million Aboriginal people may have a working understanding of the Australian language. (Refer to Australian Aboriginal languages for a more in-depth look at this topic.) There are also speakers of immigrant groups’ languages in Australia, including Chinese, Italian, and Greek.

The reported levels of religious affiliation are consistent with the origins of the immigrants themselves. While the majority of Australians (especially those of Anglican and Roman Catholic faiths) have identified as Christians in every census taken since the country’s colonial heyday, basic materialism has surpassed Christianity as the country’s dominant worldview. In the late 1980s, Roman Catholics officially became the largest religious group in the world, surpassing the Anglicans for the first time. More than half of Australians in the early 21st century considered themselves Christians, with roughly a quarter belonging to the Roman Catholic Church and a fifth to the Anglican Church. Other Protestant sects made up a smaller percentage (particularly Uniting Church, Presbyterian, and Reformed), and there were also few Jewish and Hindu communities. Late in the twentieth century, there was a dramatic rise in the percentage of people reporting themselves as Buddhist, Muslim, or Orthodox Christian. The majority of Australians (9 in 10), or 2.9 million, do not identify with any religion. Indigenous groups in Australia retain a high degree of spirituality, in contrast to the secular outlook of the European colonizers. There, religion provides purpose to daily life, and the bond between the land and its inhabitants serves as a unifying motif.


Tendencies in the population’s demographics

Since the beginning of the colonial period, people from all walks of life have had something to say about the population discussion, which is fraught with controversy. The closeness of Asia’s packed millions intensified national concerns after the mid-19th century when population expansion became commonly recognized as an indicator of economic success and environmental adaptability. Fears of labor rivalry and the growing sense of nationalism were stoked by the influx of thousands of Chinese during the 1850s gold rushes and the subsequent recruitment of South Sea Islanders on the Queensland sugar plantations in the late 1800s.

Multiculturalism’s rise to prominence

After World War II, the United Kingdom saw a dramatic cultural transformation as a result of the large inflow of migrants that occurred then. The population of Australia practically doubled from 7 million in 1945 to 13 million in 1960, expanding at a pace of 2.7% annually. Eight percent of the population was not of British descent by 1961, with Italians, Germans, Greeks, and Poles making up the main immigrant groups.


As the White Australia policy was softened in the ’50s, non-European migrants were given the chance to seek citizenship. The exclusion of migrants from outside of Europe ended with the repeal of the dictation test in the Migration Act of 1958. The most important shift occurred when Prime Minister Harold Holt passed the Migration Act in 1966, which opened the country to qualified non-Europeans. Migrants are now chosen for their abilities and potential contributions to Australian culture rather than their race, essentially ending the White Australia policy, which was formally abandoned in 1973. The purpose of this law was to promote economic and cultural exchange and tighter relations between Australia and the rest of the world, especially in Asia.


Official immigration policy and the earlier assimilation programs, where newcomers were encouraged to absorb Australian habits and culture, took a major turn in the 1970s. Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and the new Labor administration ushered in a more racially and ethnically mixed Australia with their 1973 implementation of the Universal Migration Policy. Because of this dramatic shift in policy, anyone of any race, creed, or gender from any place in the world is now able to apply to immigrate to Australia. For the sake of Australia’s economy, the program prioritized the immigration of highly educated and talented professionals. Since 1975, when mass migration schemes were abandoned, the number of immigrants from the United Kingdom and Europe has dropped dramatically. The arrival of the first Asian refugees, however, as part of the aid programs negotiated with the United Nations to facilitate resettlement in Australia for those suffering poverty and government persecution, ushered in a new wave of migration. The majority of migrants were Southeast Asians who had fled communist governments in the area as the Vietnam War drew to a close. The first Vietnamese boat people came in Darwin, Northern Territory, in 1975. Over 75,000 Southeast Asians had fled to Australia by 1985. Most of these newcomers went into low-skilled fields like agriculture or manufacturing. During the 1990s, there was a dramatic rise in the number of immigrants from Asia, with the year 1990–1991 seeing a high of 60,900 newcomers. About a third of all new Australian residents in 1998 were of Asian descent.




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