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Australia’s religious diversity

Learning Area: Mathematics – Humanities and social sciences Australian National Curriculum InformationAustralian National Curriculum Information
Age Group: Primary Upper (10-12 years) – Secondary Lower (13-14 years) – Secondary Middle (15-16 years)

Outcomes

Students identify major world religions and forms of spirituality and recognise the religious diversity of communities in Australia.

Introduction

Australia is a religiously diverse nation with over 25 major religious denominations represented. Religions span national, geographic, cultural and ethnic boundaries and therefore may be the focus of individual and family identification. Freedom of religion is enshrined in Section116 of the 1900 Act to constitute the Commonwealth of Australia (Australian Constitution).

Worksheets to download

Suggested activities

Download Teacher’s notes

1. Brainstorm

  1. Brainstorm students for a definition of religion.
  2. Brainstorm the class for a list of religions which should include:
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander spirituality
    • Buddhism
    • Christianity (with the major denominations of Catholic, Anglican, Uniting, Presbyterian, Orthodox, Baptist and Lutheran)
    • Hinduism
    • Islam
    • Judaism
    • Sikhism
  3. Compare class list with pie graph Australia’s Major Religions 1996. Were there any major omissions? Refer to the Australian Bureau of Statistics / Population/ Religion for an overview of the growth of major religions in Australia.

2. Survey

Conduct a school/class survey on the religious affiliations of the students. Include a No religion/Not stated category. Construct a pie graph and compare it to the stimulus graph.

3. Research

Download Library/Internet Student Research worksheet.

Divide the class into groups of three or four students and distribute worksheet. Each group will choose a significant religion or philosophy to research in the library or on the internet and using the Student Research worksheet report in terms of: origins, history and growth main beliefs and practices sacred places, ceremonies and festivals the number of followers in Australia and worldwide impact on young followers.

4. Reporting

Groups report their findings to the class. Reports may take a number of forms- poster, written, speech etc.

5. Discussion

Class discussion comparing and contrasting the various religions Refer Teacher’s notes for some issues.

Additional strategies

Significant festivals

In groups or individually, students research significant festivals celebrated by the main Australian religions. Reports could be prepared in advance and presented on the appropriate date. Groups could create posters to display around the school.

Consult a multicultural calendar such as Calendar for Cultural Diversity, visit The Calendar Zone or select from the following:

  • Parinirvana – Buddhist
  • Eid ul-adha – Muslim, pilgrimage to Mecca
  • Hijra/ Muharram – Muslim New Year
  • Holi – Hindu spring festival
  • Good Friday- Christian commemoration of Christ’s crucifixion
  • Baisakhi – Sikh spring festival
  • Rosh Hashanah – Jewish New Year
  • Yom Kippur – Jewish Day of Atonement
  • Diwali – Hindu and Sikh festival of lights
  • Eid ul-Fitr – Muslim, end of Ramadan
  • Bodhi Day – Buddhist
  • Christmas – Christian, birth of Jesus

Community involvement

Students prepare written questions about a religion they have studied or listened to a presentation on.

Students invite a practising member or a member of the clergy from various faiths to speak about their beliefs and to answer the prepared questions which may be forwarded in advance.

Statistics

An activity which compares statistics about religion in Australia and then considers and researches the reasons for the growth of Buddhism in Australia is on the Curriculum Corporation site.

Follow the links to Access Asia/ Thailand/Student Activities/ Lotus and Lights – Statistics on Buddhism in Australia.

Related resources

  • Achieving Harmony through Religious Understanding: a resource manual for teachers Australian Multicultural Foundation
  • Penney, Sue. 2000 World Beliefs and Cultures Titles in Series: Buddhism Christianity Hinduism Islam Judaism Sikhism Heinemann Library
  • World Religions Titles in Series: Christianity Hinduism Islam Judaism Franklin Watts 1999
  • Exploring Religions Titles in Series: Christianity Islam Judaism Heinemann Educational Publishers, 2000
  • Hughes, Philip J. 2000 Australia’s Religious Communities: A Multimedia Exploration (on CD-ROM for IBM or MAC)
    The Christian Research Association

Relevant websites

Date: 24 January 2002