The Australia Telescope Large Area Survey (ATLAS) has surveyed 7 square degrees of sky around the Chandra Deep Field South and the European Large Area ISO Survey-South 1 fields at 1.4 GHz. ATLAS aims to reach a uniform sensitivity of 10 ˘Jy beam−1 rms over the entire region with first data release currently reaching ∼ 30 ˘Jy beam−1 rms. Here we present 466 new spectroscopic redshifts for radio sources in ATLAS as part of our optical follow-up programme. Of the 466 radio sources with new spectroscopic redshifts, 142 have star-forming optical spectra, 282 show evidence for active galactic nuclei (AGN) in their optical spectra, 10 have stellar spectra and 32 have spectra revealing redshifts, but with insufficient features to classify. We compare our spectroscopic classifications with two mid-infrared diagnostics and find them to be in broad agreement. We also construct the radio luminosity function for star-forming galaxies to z = 0.5 and for AGN to z = 0.8. The radio luminosity function for star-forming galaxies appears to be in good agreement with previous studies. The radio luminosity function for AGN appears higher than previous studies of the local AGN radio luminosity function. We explore the possibility of evolution, cosmic variance and classification techniques affecting the AGN radio luminosity function. ATLAS is a pathfinder for the forthcoming Evolution Map of the Universe (EMU) survey and the data presented in this paper will be used to guide EMU's survey design and early science papers.