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SA Memory. South Australia past and present, for the future

Religion in South Australia


Bibliography of SA religious periodicals       
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Politics and Religion    
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Sunday in the bush    

For the Aboriginal people of Australia, the tales of the Dreaming all turned around the land which had nurtured them. European settlers brought a more materialistic religion, turning upon the solidness of churches and prayer books.

While predominantly Christians, South Australia's European settlers were adamant that religious tolerance must extend to all religions. The first parliamentary elections, of 1851, were fought - and won - largely over the issue of maintaining a firm division between church and state.

This commitment to religious freedom created a fertile ground for a variety of religious groups to thrive in the 'paradise of dissent,' perhaps more than in any other state. The first Salvation Army meeting in Australia took place in Adelaide, in 1880. The earliest branch of the YMCA outside of Britain was formed here in 1850. The first published translation of portions of the Bible in an Aboriginal language was produced in South Australia in 1864. Prominent local religious leaders have been known nationally, including: Mary MacKillop, David Unaipon, Henry Howard, Catherine Spence, Lewis Cohen, Paul McGuire and Janet Mead.

Social change has often turned on the groundwork of religious groups. The Woman's Christian Temperance Union successfully lobbied to raise the age of consent from 12, and played a major part in South Australian women becoming the second in the southern hemisphere to gain the right to vote in 1894. In 2003 the first ever national Queer Spirituality Conference, held in Adelaide, was a sign of religion continuing to turn on new understandings of the world.



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