This paper discusses the role of Christian theology in Australian law and society in the period after the arrival of the First Fleet and in contemporary Australia. It argues that Christian theology was foundational to the Australian colonies. Whilst the theology of Australia’s Christians has always been divided doctrinally, a shared knowledge and understanding of Christianity provided the vast majority of colonists with a common understanding of the world and a common language of discourse about it. This understanding was not shared by the indigenous peoples who had their own cultures, traditions, and understandings of the world and their own languages and laws. Whilst a belief in the sacred was a common characteristic of the belief systems of the old and new inhabitants of the continent, each had different ways of understanding the world, the sacred, and the land. This incongruity, combined with a general lack of willingness or interest of the new arrivals to understand or recognise the value of the cultures, traditions, and understandings of the original inhabitants of the continent, was at least one cause of conflict between them. This conflict still has not been adequately resolved.


Christian theology, Douglas Murray, Australian law, Australian society, colonial Australia, contemporary Australia


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This article first published in St Mark’s Review. Online: https://stmarks.edu.au/the-review-publication/

Quinlan, M. (2020) A great nation? The changing place of religion in law and society in colonial and contemporary Australia: Reflections on Douglas Murray in an Australian context. St Mark’s Review, 252, 63-78.

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