Tribute to Noel Preston – by Ray Barraclough
I first met Noel around six decades ago when we were both undergraduates at the University of Queensland. Appropriate to his temperament, intellectual interests and impulse for a wider vision of the world, Noel was drawn to the ecumenical Student Christian Movement [SCM].
Both Noel and SCM journeyed into the heady days of the mid-1960s and beyond when Australian university campus vibrated with political debate and anti-war protest. Noel’s deep interest in political theology took him not only into postgraduate study in America (at the School of Theology at Boston University) but into the fraught days of Queensland during the political and religious struggles in the last four decades of the twentieth century.
Noel was a keen reader of Reinhold Niebuhr’s works, but he was more deeply and committedly attracted to liberation theology. I recall a discussion with Noel where he commented, (and the words may not be quite exact) that “liberation theology was inspired by the gospel Jesus in its spirit and shaped by Marxist insight in its analysis”.
Noel was arrested a number of times, denounced in the ultra-conservative Queensland parliament – a historical mark of honour – and was at the centre of the initiative, resources and contribution of Action for World Development.
Noel had an international and a national vision. His contribution as a writer was appreciated also by A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia) for whom, until very recently, Noel wrote timely opinion pieces assessing the political landscape in Australia..
Noel was a great friend over all these years. We who knew him were privileged to be in solidarity with him in his life-long pursuit of social justice.