Stalwarts for social justice: Bill Neville & Bernard Carey.
Two exceptional advocates for social justice and human wellbeing have recently gone to God.
Bill Neville was one of the key leaders in Catholic and ecumenical social movements in Sydney from the 1970s, and died at the age of 82 in May. And Bernard Carey, academic and administrator, died at only 69, in July. Both were founding members of the ecumenical social justice magazine National Outlook, which in many ways was a precursor of today’s Social Policy Connections.
The monthly magazine National Outlook was sparked by the initiative of Mr Ray Temmerman, who, with others in 1979, organised a meeting at St Paul’s Seminary in Kensington. I was studying at the University of Sydney at the time, and some student social justice groups became involved with the project. Initially, the working group was largely Catholic, but wished to launch a publication that was ecumenical, especially since the social issues demanded increased collaboration among the churches.
Among the initial people launching this venture were Bernard Carey, then doing graduate study in the Department of Government at Sydney University, and Philip Esler, studying law. We had formed social justice groups at the University, and had been debating social and political issues, while exploring the implications of Catholic social thought on issues such as nuclear weapons, indigenous disadvantage, revolutionary movements particularly in Africa and Latin America, issues of world development, and liberation theology.
I first met Bernard Carey in 1976 in the Department of Government at Sydney University. After gaining his BA hons in 1974 and topping his year, he was appointed Project Leader on the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration in Canberra until 1976, when he began his PhD. We became close friends, sharing a common commitment to social justice and renewal in the Catholic Church inspired by the Second Vatican Council. Members of our social justice groups were soliciting and writing social justice articles for the back page of The Catholic Weekly in 1977-78, but we wanted a vehicle with more freedom of expression than the newspaper could offer. We talked about the need for a serious social justice magazine in Australia, something like the London Tablet and the US National Catholic Reporter.
Realising that we needed to increase seniority and experience in the team, we invited Bill Neville to join us in the National Outlook venture. He had significant experience in Catholic networks, and a certain gravitas. He worked in the NSW Department of Education, rising much later to become a member of the Senior Executive Service and number two in the NSW Ministry of Education & Youth Affairs, before he retired in 1991.
Bill’s advice and experience were invaluable, especially as chair of the editorial committee and board of directors. He had graduated from the University of Sydney in Arts and with a Dip Ed, and attended conferences of the University Catholic Federation of Australia (UCFA), where he met Elizabeth (Libby). After a few years teaching in Sydney, Bill married Libby and took a missionary teaching post in the Marist Brothers High School in Suva Fiji for four years from 1958. There, they began their close family, which grew in time to five children – four boys and a girl, Lizzie.
Returning to Sydney, Bill was a key figure in the development of Catholic social justice awareness. The Australian Catholic bishops’ conference had invited him to be part of an interim commission for justice and peace, and he was appointed one of the inaugural members of the Catholic Commission for Justice & Peace from 1971 to 1974. In addition, the Catholic bishops and the Australian Council of Churches appointed him to a Joint Secretariat for Action for World Development. He became chair of a committee organising the national Action for World Development campaign which brought together 140,000 people throughout the nation, the first time in Australia such an ecumenical endeavor had happened. This landmark event mobilised a wide constituency among the churches for social justice advocacy and action. Its impact was to last for decades.
Bill was on the executives of the Newman Association and UCFA, and attended conferences in India and Singapore in 1974, where he was introduced to the work of Pax Romana-ICMICA, the International Catholic Movement for Intellectual & Cultural Affairs (ICMICA). He became a member of the governing council of ICMICA, and attended meetings in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas, before being elected president from 1987 to 1992. He served for five years in this role, for the last 12 months in Geneva, maintaining its consultative status with UNESCO in Paris and the UN Human Rights Commission.
The National Outlook venture
The first issue of National Outlook appeared in October 1979, largely edited and supervised by Bernard Carey, who performed wonders with his magical skills negotiating agreements both with our typesetter and with our publisher. These skills were evident in his later career as a gifted university administrator. The initial board of management (editorial group) consisted of Bill, Bernard, myself, Ray Temmerman, and Philip Esler. Ray soon dropped off this committee, as he shouldered the laborious work of handling subscriptions and accounts (he later moved back to Canada), but this remained the core group, with some coming and going at various times, and others joining.
Looking back, I am pleasantly surprised at the quality and range of issues covered in this publication. The first issue led with an article on unemployment by Professor John Nevile, followed by articles by Peter J Sheehan, Keith Windshuttle, Bernard Carey, Bill Neville, and Philip Esler, among others, with book reviews by Philippa Smith, Neil Ormerod, David Pollard, Fr John Hill, and Jim Tulip. Christine Jennett began her film reviews, followed later for many years by Judith Gibson. Bernard had successfully pulled it all together.
It was all done with the thinnest of resources, since we relied on small donations and subscribers to cover costs, along with advertising, especially from Gary Eastman at Dove Communications and Fr Ed Campion. Our 32-page monthly magazine was priced at 60 cents a copy, with an annual subscription cost of $6.00. Over time, we developed ecumenical collaboration with valuable advisory committees in Melbourne, Canberra, and Brisbane. They met regularly, suggested topics, wrote articles and promoted the magazine, giving Outlook a national perspective.
National Outlook gathered a loyal following among socially-minded people, with a subscriber list of around 2000, and perhaps another 2000 copies going to some 150 parishes. Volunteers helped in those early years with the various stages of production and mailouts. Outlook launched with 10,000 copies published. For a time, Gordon & Gotch handled distribution in newsagents, but not enough sold there, and this was discontinued. We cut back our print run to 5-6,000, with any extras used for promotion.
With minimal office staff, much of the work was done pro-bono, including the writing, editing and layout. People were highly-motivated, with a sense of urgency about the social issues of the time – high unemployment, the threat of nuclear war, and the problems of hunger and development internationally. From February 1983, Outlook also republished articles by the leading English Vatican commentator Peter Hebblethwaite at a nominal ‘cabbage’ rate, until his death in December 1994. Bernard and Philip had talked about Outlook with Hebblethwaite during his visit to Australia, and he wanted to support our venture. My Redemptorist colleague, the theologian Tony Kelly, was also one of our popular regular writers. Bill Neville continued to write frequent articles over many years, particularly about the Pacific or church movements.
In July 1980, Bernard married Hilary Beange who had just completed her double hons BA at Sydney University. They were a wonderful match for each other, in heart and mind, and I was delighted to be asked to officiate at their wedding at St John’s Chapel. Philip Esler, who had introduced them to each other the previous year, was best man. Hilary and Bernard moved happily into the Gatehouse at Sydney University. As well as raising three children, Hilary and Bernard went on to develop their eminent academic and professional careers. Hilary was awarded a doctoral scholarship in late 1980, and she and Bernard moved to Oxford.
A bout of ill health caused me to withdraw from my close involvement with National Outlook, and in 1984 Bernard Carey resumed the role of editor, with the assistance of David Thomas, our Quaker colleague from South Africa, who became editor from 1985 until the end of 1992, followed by David Millikan for a year.
Bill and Libby raised five children, but in the early 1980s, Bill and his family were devastated when Libby died, followed 17 months later in February 1985 by his daughter Lizzie, who had been studying music therapy in Melbourne.
After this time of sadness, Carol appeared as a great support, and later married Bill, bringing renewed life to the Neville household for the next 30 years. Not only were Bill and Carol great companions, but they also shared the task of producing National Outlook. Bill was honorary editor from 1994 for the last eight years of the magazine, while Carol did a great deal of computer work, layout, and preparing the magazine for publication. Bill and the editorial committee sought out and wrote articles. It is an astonishing tribute to them all that National Outlook ceased publication only in March 2001, after 21 years of oftendifficult commentary.
In an interview in The Catholic Weekly on 29 June 2003, Bill expressed the thought that “Catholic social teaching appears to be getting nowhere, but it will, when people see the results of such things as the Iraq war and that the concept of free trade only seems to be free in one direction”. Prescient words, indeed.
Bill was delighted with Pope Francis not only bringing social issues to the fore in the Catholic Church again, but doing so in a thoroughly ecumenical way, and increasingly involving the other great religious and philosophical traditions. Mandela-like, Francis seemed to capture the attention of the entire world.
Bernard & Hilary Carey
After returning to Australia late in 1983, Bernard lectured in the Macquarie Graduate School of Management, in addition to editing Outlook, and was awarded his doctorate in 1987. He became Dean of the School at Macquarie University in 1991, before being appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic) from 1997 to 1999. He held several senior positions at other universities until 2005, and this took a toll on his health. He activated his law degree and in 2006 joined Champion Legal in Parramatta for five years.
Hilary lectured at Macquarie University and Sydney University from 1986 to 1990, before moving into the History Department in 1991 at the University of Newcastle, and then became Associate Professor (2001-2004) in the School of Humanities and Social Science. She accepted the Keith Cameron Chair of Australian History at University College Dublin (2005-2006), and returned as Professor of History to the University of Newcastle in 2007 until 2013.
When Hilary took up a position as Professor of Imperial & Religious History, Head of the School of Humanities at the University of Bristol in 2014, Bernard of course went as well, but his health deteriorated, and he died in hospital on 18 July 2016. Philip Esler, who was living only 40 miles away from them, spoke in his eulogy of his long friendship with Hilary and Bernard.
With astonishing energy and diligence, Hilary has produced a string of prestigious publications, including Religion & Greater Ireland: Christianity & Irish Global Networks, Methodism in Australia: a History (with O’Brien), and God’s Empire: Religion & Colonialism in the British World. She was made a Life Fellow of Clare Hall at the University of Cambridge in 2005, and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities in 2012. Bernard was immensely proud of the achievements of Hilary and of their three children, Eleanor in medicine, and Ben and Beatrice in music.
The final member of the core group behind National Outlook is Philip Esler. Philip decided to postpone his legal career, and undertook a doctorate in New Testament studies at Oxford (October 1981-84), before returning to law. He taught New Testament studies at the University of Sydney part-time from 1985, until he was appointed in 1992 as Reader in New Testament at St Andrews University in Scotland and Professor of Biblical Criticism in 1995, the first Catholic to hold the chair since the Reformation. His research applied social-scientific methods to Biblical and extra-biblical texts. He later became Professor of Biblical Interpretation and Principal of St Mary’s University College Twickenham (2010-2013), and then accepted the Portland Chair in New Testament Studies at the University of Gloucestershire in England.
The volumes of National Outlook provide a lasting chronicle of leading social activists and writers in the churches and more widely during the tumultuous decades of the 1980s and 1990s.
I feel tremendously grateful to have had such wonderful companions in this crazy adventure of National Outlook. Bill and Bernard worked throughout their careers for an improved world, and the baton now passes to others.