The 'secular' settlement and Australian political thought

Stephen A. Chavura, Ian Tregenza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This paper challenges the tendency among contemporary historians and political scientists to read secularism and religion in Australian political history in binary terms. It is argued that this framework is anachronistic, creating a barrier to a proper appreciation of religion in Australian political history. In keeping with much British Enlightenment thinking, religion through much of Australia’s history was deemed to have great social utility and its promotion was of central secular significance. This understanding framed the education debates of the second half of the nineteenth century as well as the social welfare reforms and institution building around the Federation period. Such developments cast doubt on claims that secularism of an exclusionary kind is a key element of the now widely invoked category of the Australian settlement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-287
Number of pages16
JournalAustralian Journal of Political Science
Issue number2
Early online date30 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • secularism
  • church and state
  • social welfare
  • public reason
  • Henry Higgins
  • John Rawls
  • Australian liberalism
  • citizenship
  • education
  • Secularism


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