With 28% of the population born overseas and from non-western backgrounds, Australia is considered one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world. Derived from the Latin term terra australis incognita, Australia means “the unknown south land.’ The nation was founded as a British penal colony and originally served as a place to hold criminals, debtors, and undesirables from the British Isles. It became independent in 1900. The term “Aussie” was originally used to describe a happy-go-lucky person and to distinguish between indigenous peoples and immigrants from Europe. Since the 1980’s, immigration has started to decrease, and it is now more difficult to become a citizen.
The Aborigines, the original inhabitants of Australia, have experienced violence and discrimination since the British colonization, and racism and distrust still exist between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. Both the sixth largest country and the smallest continent in the world, Australia is the only continent without glaciers. It is also the world’s driest continent, frequently suffering from deadly bush fires. In 2006, Australia experienced its driest season in history, coining it the “Big Dry.” Australia is the largest exporter of coal in the world, accounting for 29% of global coal exports. The nation’s economy is one of the largest and fastest growing in the world.
Traditionally a Christian nation with freedom of religion, Australia is becoming increasingly secular. While the majority of the population still claims to be Christian, only 10% attend church regularly. The largest Christian contingents are Roman Catholic (25%) and Anglican (17%), and the many immigrants living in Australia have also brought a wide variety of religions with them. The Church is being challenged by a New Age, self-created spirituality, and more people are developing negative attitudes toward the Church. Followers of Christ also face ideological debates about topics such as human origin, sexuality, and the existence of God, and discord among the believers concerning these issues is leading to division within the church. Pray that the Australian Christians will be bold witnesses, show the love of Christ to those who oppose them, and be revived once again in their faith.