Mark ‘No religion’ campaign launched in the lead up to Census

Not religious any more?

That’s the question the Atheist Foundation of Australia (AFA) is posing as it launches a public awareness campaign ahead of the 2016 Census on August 9.

The campaign invites Australians to mark ‘No religion’ on their Census form, if that best describes their religious state.

AFA President Kylie Sturgess says the 2016 Census is the first in Australia’s history where the ‘No religion’ option sits at the top of ten possible responses, rather than at the bottom.

Ms Sturgess says: “By positioning the ‘No religion’ option at the top, this corrects the bias in previous censuses that assumed everyone belonged to some sort of religion. Not everyone does. In fact, many people born into a religion may consider themselves spiritual and moral, but no longer religious. If that’s the case, then we invite them to mark the ‘No religion’ box.”


By marking the ‘No religion’ box, respondents send a compelling message to governments and policy makers about Australia’s secular population, which is growing significantly. From 1911 – 2011 the number of Australians marking ‘No religion’ rose from 0.4% to 22.3%. In the most recent Census in 2011, only ‘Catholic’ had a higher response rate, at 25%.

Ms Sturgess says: “Answering the religion question thoughtfully and honestly matters because it benefits all Australians when decisions on how to spend taxpayer dollars are made on sound data that accurately reflects modern-day Australia. That’s why we’re making people aware of the No Religion option and inviting them to think about whether it’s right for them.”


Globally, the number of people reporting ‘No religion’ is also increasing. When New Zealand’s census organisers similarly re-ordered the responses to their religion question in 2013, the number of people marking ‘No Religion’ rose from 35% to 42%.

In 2014, 48.5% of the population of England and Wales marked ‘No religion’, compared with 25% in 2011. And in Scotland this year, 52% of the population said they weren’t religious, compared with 40% in 1999. Ireland, Canada and the United States report similar trends.


The AFA’s national public awareness campaign kicked off this week in all capital cities and will run until Census night, August 9. The campaign includes signage at over 500 pharmacies and supermarket carparks, and on various mainstream websites. Closer to August 9, an Australia-wide social media campaign will ramp up the overall reach.

The campaign has been instigated and paid for by the Atheist Foundation of Australia, with help from crowdfunding efforts and other groups such as the Rationalist Society of Australia, Sydney Atheists, and the Humanist Society of Victoria.


Yes, you can. Marking the ‘No Religion’ box simply means you don’t currently practice a religion nor consider yourself to be religiously observant.

Many people feel spiritual, and lead moral lives encompassing values like charity, peace, love, fairness, respect, humility and honesty without identifying as religious.


In 2015 the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the body running the Census, announced it was changing the order of responses to make the religion question consistent with the way other questions are asked on the form. It points out this approach is also consistent with a number of other countries.

Census data is used by governments when making planning and policy decisions on issues such as housing, social security, transport, education, industry, shops and hospitals.


If you write things like this in the ‘Other (please specify)’ box they all get lumped together and counted as ‘Not defined’. While it may be funny, it makes no difference and is a wasted answer. You can write ‘agnosticism’, ‘atheism’, ‘humanism’ and ‘rationalism’ as those are recorded as sub-categories of ‘No religion’, but it’s easier to just mark the ‘No religion’ box.

For more information go to

For media enquiries click here

Kylie Sturgess

Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
PO Box 3582
Parramatta NSW 2124

Phone: (02) 8007 4503

  • Ruth

    I have seen a couple of your billboards around, and felt a little uneasy. Although I am not religious, but like so many other Australians, I am very happy with the Christian principles with which I was brought up. The above article states that decreasing numbers of the population designate a religion in censuses. That is probably so, but you can bet our most recent immigrants will enter Muslim or Islamic, whether they go near their place of worship or not. Will this eventually grant them a disproportionate amount of funding, to the detriment of other Australians? I am quite happy with them being provided with what is due to them, but no more, like everyone else.
    On another note, perhaps those who decide to choose “no religion”, and send their children to Christian schools, (I know plenty of them!), should stop and think,”will deciding this way cause a decrease of funding to Christian schools, causing me to pay higher fees?” I feel that what we enter on our census papers deserves deep thought. The above article does not appear to provide that.

    • Julian Jordan

      At the last Australian Census, in 2011, only 2.2% of the population indicated that their religion was Islam, that Buddhists made up the highest percent of non-Christian religions (2.5%), and that Hinduism (1.3%) is the fastest growing non-Christian religion? Even if the percentage of those professing the Islam faith is to increase this census, I doubt that it’s going to be significant. I can’t see how they’re going to receive a “disproportionate” amount of funding?

      As for funding of schools, perhaps if the Australian government sees that a large proportion of the population is non-religious, the funding of public schools could be increased to the level they deserve, rather than funds going to pay for tennis courts and swimming pools for private Christian schools. 😉

      • Ruth

        Julian, you have quoted some stats. I have not seen before, and it will be interesting the differences in the these, compared with the results from the August census. I’m afraid nothing you have said has alaid my fears. Islam is the only religion that I know of which is intolerant of Christianity and other Western faiths, and although small at the moment, it is a highly vocal minority with a large support base amongst the left of the political spectrum. I should point out to you at this stage that I am not Islamaphobic, two of my friends are Muslim ladies, with whom years ago I struck up conversations whilst riding on buses. We quite often enjoy chats about the current political situation, but I also spent many years working in public hospitals where I was on the receiving end of a lot of abuse from Muslim men who didn’t believe they should take advice from a woman. My friends were apologetic and embarrassed, but we all agreed that it is just the “radical”fringe, but I feel that I was just placating them, because I felt their husbands weren’t much better!
        You definitely have a point about the funding of schools, but we will probably disagree here, too. I don’t feel that public schools are actually underfunded, a lot of the funding they receive is wasted, on hopeless teachers, irrelevant programs etc, etc. Throwing money at schools without rectifying the problems achieves nothing. Perhaps the state schools should have a good look at how the Christian schools do it!
        Cheers Julian!