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Aboriginal beliefs vs European religions in Australia

A reflection of the cosmopolitan nature of the country, you will come across all the major religions during your trip to Australia. Less conventional but absolutely fascinating, you will also have the opportunity to learn more about aboriginal beliefs.

Religion in Australian society

As in the majority of developed countries, religious practice in Australia is less fervent than in developing countries. Twenty percent of the population declare themselves to be atheists. Nearly 60% are Christians, the vast majority of whom are Catholic. Yet, these latter also seem to be gradually losing ground. Today, the proportion of Anglicans and protestants is in constant progress.

Concerning the other religions presented on Australian territory, they simply reflect the composition of the population. Australia has long been a land of immigration, receiving migrants from around the world. Italians, Greeks, Lebanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, each population has brought its own religion and its own beliefs to this land. So, everywhere in Australia you will find places of worship dedicated to Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism or Judaism. Australia is a true kaleidoscope of the world's religions.

A church in Brisbane

Aboriginal beliefs

Today still, the Aborigines live in close harmony, symbiosis even, with the Earth. They religiously respect the myth of Dreamtime. It is a kind of system where man, the universe and time are entwined in a single system of different beliefs. At the heart of this is the belief in totems. Thus, if a person is bound by a totem to an animal or plant, he or she will have to respect a series of duties and taboos regarding this species. This is also the reason why the Aborigines have huge respect for nature in its broadest sense, comprising all living species down to the smallest pebble.

For the Aborigines, the world was created when Warramurrungundji came out of the sea to give birth to humans. Other spirits are arrived later. This is how Ginga the crocodile, Gandajitj the kangaroo and Almudj the serpent gave forms to the land, which had been flat until then. Once they had completed the work, they appeared in dream to human beings to guide them from sacred site to sacred site.

All these beliefs are rather complex to know and understand. But you should know that the Aborigines attach the greatest importance to them.

David Debrincat
459 contributions
Updated 6 November 2015

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