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In conversation with Andrew Hamilton SJ

As part of the 30th anniversary of Eureka Street in 2021, and as we have launched Eureka Street Plus in 2022, I’ve been speaking with the team who first started the publication in 1991, alongside various people who have played a part in the Eureka Street story.

The name Andrew Hamilton SJ might be the most recognisable in Australian Catholic media. A Jesuit priest, Andrew Hamilton is the consulting editor of Eureka Street and has been part of the Eureka Street community for the entirety of its existence. He contributed an article to the very first issue of Eureka Street, a piece on Burmese refugees. 

With a weekly column, Hamilton’s work is close to the heart of Eureka Street. Much loved by the readership, his pieces are known for quiet wisdom, balance, and regard for the dignity of all people, especially those most affected by whatever issue is being discussed. Marked by a genuine respect for his interlocutors, his work poses questions designed to inspire reflection and discussion. His work is deeply thought and deeply felt.

But his Eureka Street column represents only a part of his prolific output. He also writes for Australian Catholics, Madonna magazine, and writes pieces on prominent feast days throughout the year which are made available to Catholic publications around Australia.

In all his work, regardless of publication, Andrew shares considerations on human dignity, the importance of accessible language and his hopes for a better world. Every pricky moral question and its implications are debated with a tender approach, placing compassion and care for people at the forefront. ‘I’ve written extensively on refugee issues, something I feel extremely strongly about.’

 

'It’s better to try and find an angle which people to hold quite divergent sides of the same topic. Both groups can find a way in without direct conflict, there’s something in it for both of them.'

 

In this interview, Hamilton discusses his concern for refugees, his writing schedule and how he’s able to be so prolific. An avid cyclist, he also touches on how to make a bicycle spontaneously combust while riding through Scotland.

Some people like to drop the names of illustrious people they’ve met and places they’ve visited in conversation, often symptoms of an over-inflated sense of self. Andy Hamilton is the opposite. He’s lived a vibrant life of scholarship and adventure – read through the backlog of his column and he’ll drop breadcrumbs hinting at this – but you’ll only ever hear about any of it if absolutely pertinent to the discussion at hand. Has he met X person? Probably. he been to X place? Probably.

Predating his work with Jesuit Communications, Hamilton taught theology and church history at the United Faculty of Theology in Melbourne. And for decades, he has written on the conditions of asylum seekers in Australia while working with refugee communities. His work with Jesuit Refugee Service ministry has taken him to some of the more dangerous corners of the world including war-torn areas of Cambodia and El Salvador. And his time with refugee communities in Cambodia ‘led me from a theoretical commitment to social justice that fed on anger to focus on the faces of people suffering unjustly.’

Reflecting on his earlier pieces in Eureka Street, Andrew notes that they were often angry in tone, appealing to those who were already convinced of the rightness of his cause. Now, however he notes that ‘it’s better to try and find an angle which people to hold quite divergent sides of the same topic. Both groups can find a way in without direct conflict, there’s something in it for both of them.’

His recent work might avoid embracing anger or moral outrage, but in this discussion, he’s quick to point out, ‘not being angry doesn’t mean you don’t take strong positions either.’

‘I believe in what we’re doing is important. I see myself being very much a servant in that work.’

 

 

View more Eureka Street 30th anniversary interviews on our YouTube channel.  

You can support the work of Eureka Street by donating here. Your donation helps us keep Eureka Street free and open; it allows us pay the contributors, and most importantly it ensures that the unique and values-based content that we offer remains available to all.

 


 

David Halliday is editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: David Halliday, Andrew Hamilton, Eureka Street

 

 

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Existing comments

I'm an outsider but I'm attracted to ES by the civility which characterises its articles and most of the commentary. Andrew Hamilton's articles are always a 'must read' for me because, of all ES's contributors, Andrew's demonstrate this best. I don't always agree with them, and sometimes I wish that he would say 'what he really thinks' but I seldom go away regretting having read them. Thank you David for helping me to know Andrew better.


Ginger Meggs | 01 July 2022  

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