Religion and governance in Australia

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In 1901, an act of the British Parliament established the modern, independent nation of Australia, on land belonging to its indigenous peoples for some 65,000 years. The new nation gave itself deliberately secular institutions with a Constitution enshrining, on the face of it, a strong separation between religion and state, at least at the federal level. However, these secular provisions have very rarely been tested in the courts, and, when they have, interpretations have consistently minimised separation, shifting the balance in favour of Commonwealth power rather than either individuals' religious freedom or religious institutions' autonomy. Australian religion-state relations have been conducted less by regulation than by convention, subject to political vicissitudes. This paper examines key cases that contributed to the construction of Australian governance with respect to religion, and recent examples that illustrate Australia’s ad hoc approach to religion and governance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-180
Number of pages19
JournalStudies in Interreligious Dialogue
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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