More cultures, less religion

July 06, 2017

Ethnic Council of Shepparton manager Chris Hazelman, pictured at a Goulburn Valley Sri Lankan event, is not surprised by ABS data showing the numbers of new Australians settling in Shepparton.

The data is in and Shepparton is less religious and a bit more multicultural than 15 years ago.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released information from last year’s Census, which shows how Shepparton, and the rest of the country, is changing.

Across the Greater Shepparton local government area the population has increased substantially from 55082 in 2001 to 63837 last year.

And although there are more of us, there are less people going to their place of worship on the weekend, as the numbers of religious fall dramatically — 27.1 per cent, or 17298, have no listed religion, which is more than the number of Catholics (24.7 per cent) or Anglicans (11.5 per cent).

We are still more religious than most of Australia, with the nationwide non-religious rate jumping up to 30.1 per cent, which for the first time is the largest single grouping.

Last year, 24 per cent were born outside of Australia, a jump from 15.7 per cent in 2001.

Ethnic Council of Shepparton manager Chris Hazelman said the numbers of new Australians settling locally were of no surprise to him.

‘‘In my lifetime I’ve seen the influx of a range of European communities, and more recently the refugee communities,’’ Mr Hazelman said.

The Indian and Afghani community has increased in numbers significantly in the past 15 years, with new arrivals drawn to the area because of employment and its welcoming atmosphere.

‘‘We are a destination point for people from all over,’’ he said.

‘‘One fruit season the Afghanis following the labour market came to Shepparton, stayed and they told their mates.

‘‘And the word of mouth spreads through the community.’’

He mentioned the region’s embrace of other religions as a pull factor for new arrivals, and compared it to the outcry in Bendigo where a proposed mosque faced a community backlash.

‘‘We are fairly different, when the Afghanis applied to put their mosque up here, there was not a single objection to the planning permit,’’ he said.

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