Soapbox Speakers

Speakers’ Corner news.

In The News From Speakers' Corner. on September 15, 2013 at 4:13 am

For Sunday, 25th January.

No doubt heaps of exciting and extraordinary things happened at Speakers’ Corner this Sunday, but this scribe wasn’t there to witness them.

Meanwhile, we speakers might consider taking notice of the advice expressed below.



For previous posts go to ‘The Weekly Posts’ in the archives.

Steve Maxwell’s Passing Parade.

Parramatta’s Domain Speakers’ Corner.
Parramatta city is located 23 km from Sydney. It was founded by the British in 1788, the same year as Sydney.  Parramatta was the furthest navigable point inland, where a freshwater river flowed into a tidal bay. It was ideal for farming and a township grew up. Parramatta Park is the site of the Old Government House (Australia’s oldest surviving public building) and Domain. Parramatta was the capital of NSW until 1846. In 1870, the Parramatta Domain’s remaining 246 acres was proclaimed a municipal park and a management trust established.
It was at this point that a speakers corner developed.
Parramatta Park was a popular recreation ground where picnics, carnivals, exhibitions, cricket games and military parades were held. One popular activity was Speakers’ Corner. Soapbox orators addressed crowds in the Park on Sunday at the pavilion near the Rose Hill bowling greens, and also in front of Old Government house.
In 1871, an incident occurred that was unique in Australian history and received world wide news coverage at the time. William Lorando Jones (1819-1893), a freethinker, was charged for the crime of blasphemy. From his platform in Parramatta Park, Mr. Jones said that the Old Testament Bible was not fit to be read by young ladies. He quoted the Bible in a solemn and earnest manner, chapter and verse to prove his point. Waiting in the audience was an aspiring young politician, Ninian Melville, Junior  (1846-1897).
Mr. Melville, an Orangeman and leader of a sabbatarian* and temperance movement, took Mr. Jones to court. After a sensational court case, Mr. Jones was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in Darlinghurst goal, and was fined 100 pounds. He was the only person in Australia to be successfully prosecuted for blasphemy. 

The Jones incident began a long feud on Parramatta’s Speakers’ Corner between freethinkers and Christians. Their public debates attracted bemused crowds of around 1400 to 1500 people. On one particularly fraught Sunday afternoon the debate turned into a melee. While it was acknowledged that the behavior of the opponents of free speech was disgraceful, it was freethinkers who were charged with assault. The Park Trust addressed the situation by forbidding all orations in the Park on Sunday Afternoon.
Two years later, in 1888, Sunday afternoon oratory in the Park had been re-established, but without the free thinkers. A temperance advocate, a Protectionist and the Blue Ribbon Gospel Army preached and the Salvation Army held a revival dance. Six months later the Park Trust approved a new by-law outlawing ‘unseemly scenes’ of crowds around the orators and restricting any assemblage in the park. Exemption was granted to religious events and groups.**
There ended the regular Speakers’ Corner. It was not until World War I that political movements appeared in the Park. Military conscription referendum campaign meetings were held in October 1916. The Free Trade and Land Values League was also given permission in 1921 to hold meetings on Sunday, so long as they did not interfere with the Salvation Army’s band. In Parramatta, unlike the Sydney Domain, a regular Speakers’ Corner did not survive into the late 20th century.
* Sabbatarians said there should be no activities on Sunday, other than church.
** Government House Parramatta 1788-2000 By Sue Rosen.  Parramatta Park.  Trust Minutes Book 8-December 1894.
To see other episodes of Steve Maxwell’s Passing Parade click here.

The speakers and hecklers!

In Speakers and hecklers. on September 15, 2013 at 4:12 am

“I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.” 
Gerry Spence.

Some people say the speakers at Speakers’ Corner are a little eccentric. There might be a skerrick of merit in that point of view. Whatever the case, they’re an entertaining bunch.
Click here to see their 2014 highlights.
Click here to see their 2013 highlights.

The Speakers and Hecklers.

Steve Maxwell, historian and political commentator.

Steve Maxwell In various personas, but always engaging, Steve talks about Australian history and politics. Click here for highlights. To see more videos of Steve, go to the archives site. From his book, ‘Soapbox Oratory‘ Steve writes: ‘In a modern city, there must be a place where strangers can meet and discuss the issues of the day without fear of persecution; where the right to retain one’s individuality is allowed.

Helmut Cerncic, metaphysicist.

Helmut once beat Arnold Schwartzenegger in a body building contest. He knows a lot about metaphysics, (more than Arnold Schwartzenegger), and is happy to explain why Isaac Newton was an ignoramus. But his battles with hecklers are fun. Here are some highlights. For more videos of Helmut, go to the archives site and to his own site, ‘Is Science the New Religion?’.

Mirko Terzic, 21st Century inventor.


Mirko has created a phonetic alphabet to be used world-wide, and it’s better than Esperento. He has solved the problem of perpetual motion and has diagrams explaining how to get free unlimited energy from hydropower. Mirko knows how to think outside the square. Here are a few highlights of Mirko. For more videos of Mirko go to the archives site.

Ray, Christian.

Ray is concerned about your soul.

 Ray is passionate about spreading the word of God. He takes the task seriously but isn’t confronting. He is a gentle man willing to answer your questions. Here are a few highlights. For more videos of Ray, go the the archives site, the archives site.

Mr Bashful, epiphany specialist.

Mr B 2

Mr Bashful, the epiphany specialist.

Mr Bashful calls his listeners his ‘grasshoppers’. (“You have much to learn, Grasshopper.”) Among other things, Mr Bashful talks about New Age scams, happiness myths, and why we should burn the Mona Lisa. One thing he isn’t, is bashful.

Tony, atheist. (Speaker and  heckler)

Tony New-Zealander Tony is a fervent atheist and scathing of the Catholic Church. When he is not berating Christianity he is either sinking the boot into other religions, or supporting Palestine. In this video Tony expresses a few of his well considered opinions. For more videos of Tony click here.

Scott, heretic. (Occasional speaker)


Scott is a young man adept at independent thinking. Calm, thoughtful and considered, Scott likes to take commonly held views and turn them upside down – not for the sake of it, but because he seeks the truth.  Here are a few examples. For more videos of Scott go to the archives site.

Mitch: “All is consciousness” (Occasional speaker)

Mitch 2

Mitch claims everything is consciousness – even rocks and atoms. Mitch’s theory answers questions posed by Eastern religions, it resolves divine paradoxes, it addresses the mind/body problem and the free will problem, and it answers other philosophical dead-ends. Even acknowledging that everything is consciousness is a step towards Buddhist enlightenment, says Mitch, because we experience a different reality. For a glimpse of his theory click here. For a more detailed explanation go to the archives site.

 Jovo (occasional speaker)


 Jovo is a charismatic man, which may explain why he is also known as ‘Rasputin’ and ‘The Wild Man of Serbia’. Throughout the world he is envied by monks, yogis and gurus for his ability to tap into a stream of consciousness and verbalise it. 


Heckler highlights – 2013

A gleeful looking Peter about to cause trouble.

A gleeful looking Peter about to cause trouble.

Is it any wonder the speakers are a touch testy sometimes, with hecklers like these guys? Click here to see the heckler highlights for 2013.

Peter the heckler.

Peter - best

Peter, a Speakers’ Corner heckler, enjoys challenging the speakers’ claims. But he doesn’t always win the encounter. Click here for a few highlights. For more videos of Peter, go to the archives site.

Andrew, the exhibitionist. (Heckler.)

 Andrew used to be a speaker – he used to be the only flasher in the world prepared to stand up and talk about flashing, and support it. There are four entertaining videos of Andrew speaking.  Here is just one. For more videos of Andrew, go to the archives site. His award winning book about exhibitionism (flashing) is available on Amazon.

Arthur (Heckler)

 Arthur 1

Arthur is not what you call the shy type, and is generous with his opinion. I caught him searching for disciples.

David (heckler).

David is dead against any view supporting the existence of ghosts, telepathy, UFO’s, psychics, and any other new-age rubbish you might try to foist upon him, but when it comes to religion he is fervently agnostic. He leaves no stone unturned in his search for the truth.

John (Placid heckler.)

Philosopher, skeptic, atheist, and all around good guy, John makes his way to Speakers’ Corner just often enough to get a mention here.

Jack (Quiet observer)


“The old grey owl sat on an oak. The more he heard, the less he spoke. The less he spoke, the more he heard. Now, wasn’t he a wise old bird?”

Click here to hear a few words from Jack.

Kevin (visitor)

Kevin Kevin speaks out against forced medication with psychotropic drugs.



This column is for you, the passer-by!

In For the passers-by. on September 15, 2013 at 4:08 am

At Speakers’ Corner all passers-by are invited to step up onto The Ladder of Knowledge and speak, and become a part of Speaker Corner history. The brave souls who take the opportunity are a diverse lot, and enrich Speakers’ Corner considerably. 

How about you? Will you stand on The Ladder of Knowledge and tell us what you think?

Click here to see the 2014 passers-by and heckler highlights and full videos.
Click here to see the 2013 passers-by highlights and full videos.
Click here to see the 2013 heckler highlights.
Click here to see the 2012 passers-by highlights and full videos.

2015 passers-by.


Victoria 1

Lawyer Victoria talks about the difficulty of maintaining a work/life balance. Click here.


Norm 1

Two weeks earlier Norm had heckled a speaker, saying that universities were wasting money. Today he happened to be speaking on The Ladder of Knowledge and he was asked about that claim. Click here for his response.

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