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In conversation with Michael Kelly

  • 25 November 2021
As part of the 30th anniversary of Eureka Street, 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.

In any discussion of Eureka Street, the name Fr Michael Kelly SJ is never far away. In fact, in any conversation about Catholic media in Australia, Michael Kelly is there, having founded Jesuit Publications (Eureka Street, Australian Catholics, Madonna), CathNews, Daily Prayer Online, and Aurora Community TV. He joined the Jesuits there in 1971 and was ordained a priest in 1984. Prior to his ordination, he worked as a journalist.

In this interview, Michael explains the motivation for starting Eureka Street in 1991. 

‘The Jesuits have a longstanding tradition in print publications. The inspiration [for Eureka Street] was the age-old Jesuit juxtaposition of faith and culture and what does one have to offer the other?’ Michael says. ‘And what’s happening in the wider world politically, economically, and culturally that the Catholic tradition can address and have something to say about that’s both practical and realistic but also theologically informed?’

Then, as now, that juxtaposition of faith and culture makes for a publication that can be unpredictable and at times hard to fit neatly into a box.

‘We didn’t want to be contained. And we wanted to make sure we weren’t intimidating,’ Michael says. ‘We wanted to be listened to, engaged with, and we wanted to be listening and engaging ourselves. That was our purpose, and we did that. We were never going to be mainstream and celebrated, we were always going to be edgy.’

'We were never going to be mainstream and celebrated, we were always going to be edgy.'

Flick through the first issue of Eureka Street and you’ll notice it is a publication with a distinctive tone. With an illustration by John Spooner on the cover, it has the look and feel of an established mainstream publication. With the release of the first issue came a unique voice on to the Australian media landscape. Political, yet faith-based; theological, yet irreverent.

None of this was accidental. ‘There was a lot of conversation,’ he says. ‘Those of us who were there early, myself and Morag [Fraser] particularly, had been around this space for a long time. So we had a we had a pretty clear understanding of who we are and what we wanted to do.’

View more Eureka Street 30th anniversary interviews on our