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No rest for the Wicca

By Kelly Burke

Peter Jensen pities them, George Pell loathes them and Fred Nile curses them. But the neo-Pagans continue to move from strength to strength.

The last census proved nature religions, and primarily Wicca and Paganism, were among the fastest growing in Australia.

And now the Melbourne-based Christian Research Association (CRA) has carried out the first in-depth analysis of the religious group that accounts for more than 24,000 Australians. According to that study, the profile of the modern Australian Pagan is a female Melburnian under the age of 35, Australian-born, living in a de facto relationship, with a university degree. What is harder to analyse is the rising political force of Paganism.

Earlier this year the country’s largest nature religion organisation of paid-up members, the Pagan Awareness Network, was granted a licence to fundraise for charitable purposes by the NSW Department of Gaming and Racing. Now it has its sights set on having the Australian Taxation Office classify it as a bona fide deductable gift recipient.

Listed as an incorporated education institution, the network already enjoys tax-free status, although it chooses to pay GST, according to David Garland, a Wicca practitioner and president of the network. The educational status, he says, is based on the network’s primary function of instructing the public by dispelling such myths as the religion’s links to satanism and its fondness for sexual orgies.

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