Scanning through recent articles in the local papers today, I came across an interesting report on the religious diversity of colonial Australia:

This month, for the first time, anyone with a computer can see the 1828 census of NSW online. And what is particularly interesting, said Brad Argent, spokesman for Ancestry.com.au, is just how multi-cultural a society we were 180 years ago.

"We take for granted that we live in a culturally diverse society – but that happened very early on," he said. "In 1828 you had all these different religions, yet people seem to be living in a reasonable degree of harmony in very tough conditions."

Sounded fascinating, but that diversity did seem somewhat over-rated on closer inspection:

Most of the population (69 per cent) described themselves as Protestant, with 30 per cent listed as Catholic.

That is, one percent non-Christian.

However, the report still held a few surprises:

Of those who listed their religion as something other than Christian, there were 94 Jews, 10 "Mohammedans", three "Malays", one Hindu and three pagans.

Mmmm. More Jews than I expected. Hadn't expected Pagans at all. Not sure what they mean by Malays since Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism are all found there. No Buddhists, unless that's what they mean by Malays. Very different from today. But then same too with the Christian denominational balances.

And quite apart from the religious data, as an Aussie I found some of the information about our convict heritage here to be interesting for its own sake … and yikes on the massive gender imbalances! I think history and genealogy buffs will just love this.

If you would like to read the full article click here.

See Ancestry.com.au for the online archive.

Related articles
2006 Census – Religion in Australia – Part I
2006 Census – Religion in Australia – Part II
2006 Census – Religion in Australia – Part III

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