2016 National Count of Attendance at Mass and Sunday Assemblies

Mass attendances for the whole of Australia are collected once every five years in a project known as the National Count of Attendance. The first National Count was in 2001, the most recent in 2011. Many dioceses also conduct annual counts.

The National Count of Attendance will again be conducted throughout Australia during 2016 and will take place in the Diocese of Bathurst throughout May.

Church attendance is perhaps the most basic measure of religious practice. 

According to the most recent national count, conducted in 2011, about 12.2 per cent of Australia’s Catholic population, or 662,000 people, went to church on a typical weekend. Most of those attended Mass in a parish, but the figure also included people attending Mass in non-parish centres, such as migrant centres, hospitals, gaols and boarding schools, and also some who were not attending Mass at all, but rather a Sunday assembly in the absence of a priest.

A report based on the 2011 National Count of Attendance showed some interesting statistics such as: in 2011, about one-third of Mass attenders had been born in non-English speaking countries. In particular, respondents born in India, Sri Lanka or the Philippines accounted for much larger proportions of attenders compared to their proportions in the Catholic population as a whole. The full report can be downloaded free of charge from the PRO website: pro.catholic.org.au

The count is conducted in the same year as the Australian Census (to be held on 9 August) and the National Church Life Survey (NCLS, to be held in October and November) so that the information collected can most effectively be used in association with results from the other two projects. Combining national count and NCLS data reveals that about 85 per cent of the people at church on a typical weekend attend every weekend, but the remaining people range from one-off visitors to those who attend from once or twice a year up to two or three times a month.

It is intended that the 2016 count will be conducted in all parishes and other Mass centres, such as migrant community centres, throughout Australia. The count will be as comprehensive as possible and include people of all ages at Mass (including babies) and other types of Sunday Assemblies.

It will is a simple headcount: no other information about attenders will be collected. The exercise does not disrupt Mass. The count is conducted over four consecutive Sundays (and Saturday evenings). Counting over four Sundays ensures that fortnightly and monthly Masses are not overlooked. This is particularly important for many country towns and migrant communities. The method used for the count enables reporting of actual numbers attending on any particular weekend of the count and also the calculation of the total number likely to be in attendance on a typical weekend after special events, like Confirmations, have been taken into account.

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