Commonwealth of Australia
February 18-19

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Area 7,682,300 This island continent is largely grassland and desert in the interior but better watered in the east, southeast and southwest coastal regions, where most live in highly concentrated urban areas. There are three permanently inhabited dependent territories; Norfolk Is. (35; 2,500 pop), Christmas Is. (135; 2,300 pop), Cocos Is. (14; 600 pop).

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 18,879,524 +1.03% 2 per sq. km.
2010 20,608,386 +0.85% 3 per sq. km.
2025 23,090,790 +0.69% 3 per sq. km.

Capital Canberra 328,370. Other major cities: Sydney 4,041,000; Melbourne 3,417,000; Brisbane 1,601,000; Perth 1,364,000; Adelaide 1,092,000. Urbanites 86%.


Over 25.5% of Australians are foreign-born and 16.8% were born in a non-English speaking country. Figures below are approximate.

Anglo-Celtic 67.8%. Predominantly British and Irish.

Other European 20%. Migrants from nearly every ethnic group in Europe, many still retaining their cultural identity.

Asian 6%. Chinese 450,000; Vietnamese 150,000; Filipino 100,000; Indian 90,000; Malay-Indonesian 50,000; Japanese 30,000; Cambodian 25,000.

Middle Eastern 3.0%. Arabic-speaking 300,000; Turks 70,000; Iranian 25,000; Kurds 25,000.

Australian Aborigine 2%. Total 350,000, half of whom speak one of the 111 living indigenous languages. In 1780 there were 300,000 speaking 260 languages.

Other 1.2%. Pacific Islander, Latin American, African.

Literacy 99%. Official language English. Over 19% of the population do not use English as their first language. All indigenous languages 234. Languages with Scriptures 1Bi 8NT 26por 19 w.i.p.


Mixed economy based on industry, agriculture and mining. Although the economy was restructured in the ‘90s, the Asian recession, external debt and severe periodic droughts limited growth for a time, but by 2001 economic growth was restored. HDI 0.922; 7th/174. Public debt 23% of GNP. Income/person $20,090 (66% of USA).


A federal, parliamentary democracy formed in 1901 with 6 states and 2 federal territories. The British monarch is the constitutional head of state, represented by a governor general. A referendum was held in 2000 about becoming a republic, but it was rejected.


A secular state with freedom of religion. A rapid increase of those claiming no religion and the arrival of many non-Christian immigrants is making Australia a much more pluralistic society.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Christian 67.50 12,743,679 +0.0%
non-Religious/other 28.21 5,325,914 +3.1%
Buddhist 1.40 264,313 +6.6%
Muslim 1.33 251,098 +5.2%
Hindu 0.47 88,734 +6.5%
Jewish 0.45 84,958 +1.0%
Chinese 0.26 49,087 +1.0%
Traditional ethnic 0.25 47,199 +71.6%
Sikh 0.08 15,104 +4.5%
Baha'i 0.05 9,440 +6.8%

Christians Denom. Affil.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 155 12.83 2,423 +0.0%
Independent 28 1.06 199 +10.1%
Anglican 1 20.23 3,820 -0.6%
Catholic 1 25.21 4,760 -0.2%
Orthodox 35 3.20 605 +1.8%
Marginal 56 1.30 245 +0.5%
Unaffiliated   14.88 2,809 n.a.
Doubly affiliated   -11.21 -2,100 n.a.

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Catholic C 1,226 3,328,671 4,760,000
Anglican A 3,300 687,050 3,820,000
Uniting P 2,700 156,757 1,254,056
Greek Orthodox [2] O 118 258,741 370,000
Baptist Union P 930 64,000 310,000
Assemblies of God P 997 69,820 155,000
Jehovah's Witnesses M 770 61,723 110,000
Chr Outreach Centres I 200 55,000 110,000
Latter-day Saints (Morm) M 410 67,832 97,000
Lutheran P 533 35,185 95,000
Salvation Army P 450 24,000 75,000
Churches of Christ P 470 45,000 71,000
Presbyterian P 775 36,000 68,000
Coptic Orthodox O 20 47,552 68,000
Seventh-day Adventist P 415 50,000 57,000
Russian Orthodox O 22 29,605 45,000
Serbian Orthodox O 23 31,763 44,151
Chr Brethren (Open) P 288 19,000 42,180
Chr Revival Crusade I 200 21,000 28,350
Other denoms [259]   2,952 235,600 473,000
Doubly affiliated     -1,167,000 -2,100,000
Total Christians [279]   16,800 4,157,700 9,952,800

Trans-bloc Groupings pop. % ,000 AnnGr
Evangelical 12.5 2,351 -0.5%
Charismatic 10.0 1,897 +0.3%
  Pentecostal 2.0 379 +8.3%

Missionaries from Australia
P,I,A 4,388 in 97 agencies and in 134 countries: PNG 260, Middle East 106, USA 83, Philippines 82, Indonesia 80, Thailand 70, India 67, Japan 50, Cambodia 34, Nepal 32, Congo-DRC 31, Tanzania 29, Spain 27.

Missionaries to Australia
P,I,A 3,277 in 109 agencies: Australia 2,116 (928 cross-cultural), USA 337, New Zealand 173, Korea 85, UK 51.

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Challenges for Prayer

1 Secularism and a pursuit of leisure, pleasure and wealth characterize Australia. Although 68% of Australians claim to be Christian, negative attitudes towards authority and tradition make it hard for the average man in the street to see the gospel as meaningful or the church as relevant. There is widespread interest in spirituality, but people are not turning to the churches to explore it. Pray that many might find solutions to life's problems and find their identity in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Church attendance declined steadily from 35% in 1966 to 12% in 1990. This appears to have stabilized with about 10% of Australians in church on an average Sunday, and 18-20% in regular contact with church life. Decline continues in some of the larger and more traditional churches. There is some growth in the Salvation Army and various Pentecostal and charismatic churches though even this growth slowed in the late 1990s. In 1998 the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and about a third of all parliamentarians were professing Christians. Pray for revival–something Australia has never known.

3 Evangelicals are strong in the Sydney Anglican diocese and a growing minority in the Melbourne diocese (30%). Several mainline churches have evangelical majorities while all of the rest have significant and active minorities. However mainline churches are in varying degrees of polarization over such issues as the ordination of women, homosexuality and traditional church structures which are leading to further divisions. The casualty rate among pastors is a concern — there are over 10,000 ex-pastors, almost the same number as presently serving pastors. Pray for a greater understanding of the post-modern world, more effective proclamation of the gospel in relevant ways and use of appropriate structures for growing the Christian community.

4 Although some Australian churches have a good mission focus, there is a general lack of missions vision in most churches. The relatively large number of Australian missionaries suffer from lack of support at every level. The vision for world evangelization has to be imparted to pastors during their theological training. Mission awareness courses, such as Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, are now being used in every state of Australia and the steady growth in numbers is encouraging. Students of all ages are being changed and are getting involved as goers or active senders. Pray for them and that churches may be enthused through them. Pray also for the missionary force, especially those who have gone to pioneer areas.

5 Less reached peoples are found both among the indigenous Aborigines, the many post-war migrants and the 6.5 million of non-British origin–both Australian-born and immigrants. Pray for those local churches with an active ministry to such cultural communities and also for the work of local congregations, ECM and other agencies among the European minorities.

a) Aboriginal tribes. Only a few isolated groups have failed to respond to the very considerable missionary effort of past years. Most Aborigines are professing Christians, but there is a strong move to reassert their cultural identity.

b) Many people in working-class urban areas and in isolated mining and farming communities in the vast interior, northwest and north have had no vital biblical witness.

c) Muslims–around 255,000 from over 70 countries, (40% Arabic-speaking, 20% Turkish, 9% Bosnian, 7% Indonesian/Malay) with 125,000 living in the Sydney area and 82,000 in the Melbourne area. Muslims have increased a hundred-fold since 1947, and there are now over 80 mosques in use. Small beginnings are being made to reach these peoples by the Baptist Union, Uniting Church and Stepping Stone Mission's Training Community, resulting in Arabic- and Turkish-speaking groups of believers beginning to emerge. MECO's Centres of Fellowship are a significant ministry to Muslims.

d) Chinese–A high proportion of immigrants from SE Asia are ethnic Chinese and they may total as much as 450,000. About 20% of the Chinese are professing Christians; others are secular or adhere to the various Chinese traditional religions. There are over 130 Chinese evangelical congregations in the cities. Australia’s largest Presbyterian Church is Chinese. Some of the most lively student groups in universities are of the Overseas Christian Fellowships and these are predominantly Chinese. Pray for the complete evangelization of the Buddhists and non-Christians among them.

e) Vietnamese–possibly 150,000, mostly refugees over the past 25 years and their offspring . There are a few Christian congregations. AsEF is expanding a ministry to Asian communities in each state.

f) The diverse peoples from the former Yugoslavia. Most still retain the use of their mother tongues: Croatian 80,000; Macedonian 70,000, Serbian 35,000; Bosnian 14,000; Albanian 10,000. They come from some of Europe's least evangelized countries, and there are very few evangelical believers among them.

g) Jews number 85,000; half live in Melbourne. Celebrate Messiah Australia has a fruitful ministry among Melbourne’s growing Jewish community where there are many recent immigrants from Russia. CWI has a witness in Sydney.

h) Southern Europeans. Many use their original mother tongues, however many second- and third-generation settlers have assimilated into English-speaking Australian society and become estranged from their cultural roots. They neither fit into the ethnic churches of their parents nor feel at home in Anglo-Celtic churches. Pentecostal churches and the Jehovah’s Witnesses have had more success. Major groups being Italians 500,000; Greeks 300,000; Polish 120,000; Maltese 80,000; Spanish 70,000. These represent minorities that, if evangelized and motivated, could make an impact for God on their native lands.

6 The 350,000 indigenous Aborigines have been demoralized in their contacts with Western culture and greed and have been frustrated about their lack of control over their lands and their heritage. Recognition of the land rights of the first Australians has become a major political issue in recent years. Reconciliation between black and white Australians is a crucial issue yet to be resolved. Some have adapted to the invading culture, but many have been marginalized, and others have retreated into the more inaccessible and inhospitable parts of the country. There are a number of areas, especially in the north and west of the country where there are strong congregations with effective outreach.

a) Pray for the Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship, a key coordinating body of Aboriginal Christians, as it encourages leadership development through its training college, outreach and church planting in every Aboriginal community. Pray that believers may boldly proclaim the liberating power of the gospel in the face of hostility from political activists.

b) Pray for the nearly 500 missionaries in 26 denominational and interdenominational agencies working among these people (such as the Aborigine Inland Mission, United Aborigine Mission, CMS and MAF).

c) Bible translation is in progress in 19 of these small language groups (through the 38 SIL and UBS workers); 26 languages have a portion of the New Testament. About 13 may still need translators.

d) The use of GRN records and cassettes in 86 languages is a vital contribution to the task because of the great linguistic variety among the Aborigines.

7 Witness among the 630,000 students in the 36 universities and colleges is barely adequate. AFES(IFES) with 70 groups, Student Life (CCCI), and the Navigators and Students for Christ are significant campus ministries, but the overall impact on student bodies is not large. Pray for a greater evangelistic zeal, a larger harvest for the Kingdom, and an increased flow of missionaries to the world from these groups.

8 Young people and children. There has been a drastic drop in Sunday School attendance, and alternative methods must be found to reach the younger generation. The Christian school systems are growing rapidly. The Inter-Schools Christian Fellowship (SU) has a valuable ministry in secondary schools. In every State but South Australia religious instruction is conducted in schools by volunteers from the churches. Many groups, such as Youth For Christ, the Crusader Movement, God Squad and others are seeking to evangelize young people. The innovative Fusion Ministries has developed a well-researched and culturally relevant range of ministries to youth and to families based in 25 centres with 200 full-time workers across the country.

9 Christian Media

a) Radio. This could be more effectively utilized by Evangelicals through the national and local broadcasting networks, which are required, by law, to give a percentage of time weekly to religious broadcasts. Several explicitly Christian radio stations are attempting to obtain broadcasting licenses. Funding is a big bottleneck.

b) Literature. There are 300 Christian bookstores (9 of CLC) in Australia. Pray for literature to impact the younger generation of Christians. The evangelistic and teaching materials produced by The Bible Society, SGM, ACTS International and World Home Bible League are especially worthy of prayer support.

c) Video. Create International based in Perth produces Christian videos of great value in witnessing. The JESUS film is being used in an innovative plan to focus on ethnic minorities called “JESUS: Gift to the Nation”.

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