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  • INTERNATIONAL

    Ahok is innocent and Indonesia needs him

    • Pat Walsh
    • 15 May 2017
    11 Comments

    Did he denounce Islam as 'evil' like the American evangelist Franklin Graham? Did he publicly denounce God as 'stupid' like Stephen Fry? On the contrary. Ahok is deeply respectful of Islam and has many Muslim supporters. The affair has done a serious disservice to Indonesia, presenting it as fanatical, racist and sectarian. While these perceptions are unfair, the affair also reveals some aspects of contemporary Indonesia that are obscured by Canberra's often lavish praise of our important neighbour.

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  • INTERNATIONAL

    My close-up view of America's other cowboy presidency

    • Brian Matthews
    • 04 May 2017
    4 Comments

    For all his demonstrable popularity, Reagan was a divisive figure. His Hollywood and TV show provenance were regarded with enduring suspicion by some, and many doubted his capacity to deal with the dangerous complexities of Cold War politics. Some even considered him a rogue. He was well into enjoying his overwhelmingly approved second term when, unnoticed by the President, his administration or anyone outside the city of Eugene, Oregon, I arrived in the United States.

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  • RELIGION

    Labor Party reform through Catholic Social Teaching

    • Andrew Hamilton
    • 05 April 2017
    6 Comments

    It can be disconcerting to hear our family history told by a sympathetic outsider. I found Race Matthews' new book that treats Catholic engagement in public social issues fascinating in that respect. Matthews' perspective is that of a member of the Labor Party who admires Catholic Social Teaching, especially its commendation of the communal ownership of business enterprises. He sees the possibilities this presents for the reform of Australian society, particularly if adopted by the Labor Party.

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  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    Mme. Blanchard hits the roof

    • Ian C. Smith
    • 03 April 2017

    Riding her gondola, a skimpy thing like herself, she sees her balloon ablaze, begins her descent, feathered hat lost, a rushed farewell performance. The house roof's pitch steep, her rigging tangled, fire almost out, burned, broken, she can't hang on, she who once remained aloft all night over Rome.

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  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    A life in song for the working class

    • Tony Smith
    • 22 March 2017
    4 Comments

    Danny sang of farm labourers, poachers, mariners, union martyrs and miners. He did not simply perform the songs - that would be too much like exploiting them. His aim was to help preserve them. When he introduced a song it was clear that he had great respect for the tradition in which he fitted and that he had done extensive research into the song's provenance. The songs were important because of how they recorded aspects of working class life which mainstream histories might neglect.

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  • RELIGION

    Luther’s challenge to the Church then and now

    • Bill Wright
    • 06 March 2017
    4 Comments

    Speaking of reform in the church can mean many things. Often it's about practical matters: sorting out the Vatican Bank, changing how bishops are chosen or clergy trained; that sort of thing. Occasionally, however, reform is about seeking real religious change. Martin Luther, I want to suggest, is one of those reformers who was not concerned with tinkering with structures of the church but with reforming the Christian message so that it might reform the believer.

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  • AUSTRALIA

    Trump's 1984 is Turnbull's Animal Farm

    • Brian Matthews
    • 20 February 2017
    14 Comments

    In these duplicitous times it's not surprising to find Nineteen Eighty-Four cited. In Airstrip One, WAR IS PEACE; FREEDOM IS SLAVERY; IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH - a Nineteen Eighty-Four equivalent of a Tweet with plenty of character space left to add insults. And all facts are alternative, as in the news, 'Oceania is at War with Eurasia', which becomes before your very eyes, 'Oceania has never been at war with Eurasia.' For events closer to home, Orwell's Animal Farm is disturbingly apposite.

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  • EDUCATION

    Christmas encounter with an unremembered student

    • Gillian Bouras
    • 20 December 2016
    9 Comments

    I have no idea how many students I've taught in two countries. I remember, usually, the high achievers and their troublesome and often troubled opposites, but most are a blur: the human memory has its limits. On the other hand I think I can name all the teachers I ever had: this, of course, is much easier to do. There was more evidence of this today. I was in the Kalamata post office, waiting my turn and clutching a fistful of cards bound for Australia, when a bearded young man asked me a question.

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  • RELIGION

    My mother's burqa: an irreverent history

    • Irfan Yusuf
    • 14 December 2016
    2 Comments

    Some of my South Asian 'aunties' are very much opposed to wearing any religious head covering. Mum has only recently started wearing a tiny Egyptian number she picked up during her last Haj. Like many South Asians, she has become a bit more religiously observant as she gets older. She grew up in the Indian university town of Aligarh, some 140km South East of Delhi. Aligarh was a very conservative town, and her father, a professor at the local university, was a rather conservative chap.

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  • INTERNATIONAL

    History comes to strife in Stratford-upon-Avon

    • Patrick McCabe
    • 29 November 2016
    3 Comments

    Someone I read in high school, so probably Shakespeare, once said 'The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.' Well, whoever it was clearly hadn't been to Stratford-upon-Avon (so maybe not Shakespeare then). Here, you truly can visit the past, without a passport. As one peruses the shops, houses, supermarkets and ATMs, one cannot help but speculate as to the links between Shakespeare's works and what must have been the commonplaces of his everyday life.

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  • EDUCATION

    Jostling for justice on school funding's contested ground

    • Michael Furtado
    • 04 November 2016
    12 Comments

    Amid the furore surrounding Minister Birmingham's disclosure of figures showing massive discrepancies in public funding between some independent schools and low-SES schools, some facts need scrutinising. Systemic Catholic schools draw for their enrolment from lower-SES postcodes than independent schools. Postcodes being an indelible predictor of the educational chances of Australians, balancing systemic school funding against that of independent schools is politically and ethically problematic.

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  • AUSTRALIA

    Tweeting our way back to the Middle Ages

    • Brian Matthews
    • 03 November 2016
    4 Comments

    Curiously, while privacy continues to be valued and sought in the 21st century perhaps more strenuously than ever before, its milieu is once again the furious turmoil of aggressively public revelation, exhortation and threat that distinguished Johan Huizinga's scarifying portrait of the medieval world, in his book The Autumn of The Middle Ages. In our age, 'all things in life' once again have 'about them something glitteringly and cruelly public'. Or to put it another way, we have social media.

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