In September 2019, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference made available the profile of the Catholic population of the Diocese of Parramatta. The data was sourced from the Australian Census of 2016, with some comparisons from previous censuses.
A snapshot of our diocese shows the following:
- The total population of 2016 was 1,155,462, up from 1,050,870.
- However, while the overall population has increased by over 100,000, the Catholic population had declined from 332,120 down to 322,677.
- To put it another way, in 2016, Catholics were 27.9% of the total population, whereas in 2011 they were 31.6% of the population.
It is hard to say what has caused this downward trend. One factor may simply be that those who self-identify as Catholics has dropped in the last census, remembering that “No Religion” was placed first.
Regardless of the drop, the Diocese of Parramatta is ranked the fifth-largest diocese overall, and third highest in terms of the percentage of Catholics (out of a total of 28 Dioceses). In simple terms, Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains is a very Catholic part of the nation, with about one in three people at least ticking that they are Catholic on the census.
In 2016, the total number of Catholic families was 113,417, and 19,024 Catholics lived alone. With a median age of 37, we are one of the younger dioceses, with 21.7% of the Catholic population aged 0-14. Also of interest, our Catholics are less likely to move, with 62.2% being at the same address since the last census, ranking us as second highest in staying home among the dioceses.
Over a quarter of our Catholics (26.6%) are born in a non-English-speaking country. The top five birthplaces of Catholics born overseas are Philippines (8%), Lebanon (2.5%), Malta (1.8%), India (1.5%) and the United Kingdom (1.5%).
However, in terms of recent arrivals, between 2013 and 2015, the top five regions are: Iraq, Middle East and North Africa – Not Elsewhere Classified, Columbia, India, and Brazil, with these regions each representing 15% of total recent arrivals.
This profile contains other useful information such as disability information, education levels, marital status, family makeup and employment details.
Clearly, this represents an important document for planning purposes in our diocese, providing us with a clearer picture of the Catholics we seek to serve in our communities.
Perhaps these figures challenge some of our assumptions. However, it is equally important for us to be mindful of the full population of our diocese, Catholic and non-Catholic, as we are called to bring the Gospel to all peoples.
Profiles for individual parishes are expected to be available in early 2020, which will be of great benefit to local communities.
We are grateful to the work of the National Centre for Pastoral Research for compiling these profiles, mindful that they were also heavily involved in analysing the nationwide feedback from Plenary 2020 listening and dialogue sessions.
The profile for the Diocese of Parramatta can be found here, along with profiles for other dioceses: https://ncpr.catholic.org.au/2016-diocesan-social-profiles/
Richard McMahon is the Director of Pastoral Planning & Implementation for the Diocese of Parramatta.