Soapbox Speakers

What is Speakers’ Corner?

In Speakers and hecklers. on March 8, 2015 at 11:51 pm

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

Every Sunday, from 2pm until 5pm, people gather in Sydney’s beautiful Domain park to discuss matters. The ones standing on ladders are ‘the speakers’, and they believe it’s their job to educate  their ‘grasshoppers’ or ‘groundlings’.  The ones sitting in chairs believe it’s their job to point out why the speaker is wrong, and to heckle. Both parties are kept busy.

This sums up the relationship between the speakers and the hecklers.

This sums up the relationship between the speakers and the hecklers.

Click here to see their 2015 highlights.
Click here to see their 2014 highlights.
Click here to see their 2013 highlights.

Find past posts  on our Archives site.

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The Speakers and Hecklers.

Steve Maxwell, historian and political commentator.

Steve Maxwell

Steve Maxwell, legend.

In various personas, but always engaging, Steve talks about religion, 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 4

Helmut used to be a professional wrestler going by the name of Helmut Rommel. He took on the likes of Killer Karl Kox, Mario Milano and Spiros Orion. And, he once beat Arnold Schwartzenegger in a body building contest.
More importantly, Helmut knows a lot about metaphysics (more than Arnold Schwartzenegger and Killer Karl Kox combined), and he is happy to explain why Isaac Newton was an ignoramus.
His battles with hecklers are fun. He calls his listeners his ‘groundlings’. 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 to the archives site.

Mark the Grinner.

As a heckler, Mark regularly gets a hearty laugh from the crowd with his meticulously crafted questions. As a speaker his humour is still there, but his talks have substance. He comments on human behaviour and attitudes, and he doesn’t hold back.

Click here to hear why Mark comes to Speakers’ Corner.

His companion, Sue, is less vocal, but she has no trouble speaking her mind when she has something to say.

Mr Bashful, epiphany specialist.

Epiphany specialist Mr Bashful tells us he is the spiritual advisor to the Dalai Lama, though that’s yet to be verified. He calls his listeners his ‘grasshoppers’ and his foes ‘garden gnomes’.
  Mr Bashful’s favourite topic is his evolutionary approach to happiness and resilience, but he ends up talking about almost everything else.   He has presented an Ockham’s Razor talk on the ABC’s Radio National and believes we should burn the Mona Lisa. He also created the site that helps people learn how to look after a dog.

One thing he isn’t, is bashful.

To learn more about him and see videos of him in action, click here.

He now has a Facebook page.

John August (Occasional speaker)

John speaks earnestly on a wide range of subjects, and if you’re in Sydney you can listen to his radio program on Radio Skid Row, 88.9 FM every Tuesday, from noon until 2pm.

John is an active member of the Pirate Party, which is a serious political party devoted to making Australia more democratic. He and other pirates speak at the Domain now and then about their policies and other topical matters. (That’s ‘topical’, not ‘tropical’.)

To see videos of John performing at Speakers’ Corner go to his Youtube channel.
John also has a website in which he comments upon current affairs, both here and abroad.
He is a busy lad.


Uncle Pete (heckler and occasional speaker)

Peter - best

During the week Uncle Pete teaches students, and if he teaches them with the same verve he has for the Sunday passers-by, they are lucky students indeed. Click here for a few highlights. For more videos of Uncle Pete, go to the archives site.

Tony, atheist.

New-Zealand born Tony used to be a speaker but now he heckles the other speakers. He is a fervent atheist scathing of the Catholic Church, and 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.

Max (Quiet listener)

Max is one of the gentler regular visitors. Says little, but when he does speak, it’s sensible. Click here to discover why he visits Speakers’ Corner.

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.

Peter the Younger


The well-read Peter knows an awful lot about many subjects, and in particular: geo-politics and U.S. shenanigans.  Click here to hear why Pete comes to Speakers’ Corner.


Howard is always polite and reasonable, yet despite that he fits in well at Speakers’ Corner. His contributions are appreciated by all. Click here to hear why he comes to Speakers’ Corner.

Ben the Whisperer

Although Ben is softly spoken, when he does speak, people listen. Click here to hear why he likes Speakers’ Corner.

Philip Feinstein

Philip occasionally speaks and is the founder of Music For Refugees. He also runs the Smokenders program, to help people give up smoking.


Click here to hear why Kieron likes Speakers’ Corner.


Jean 2

Jean tries so hard to be feisty, but she’s just a big softie. Click here to hear why she comes to Speakers’ Corner.
Her husband Albert is below. Both of them are excellent value at Speakers’ Corner.


Albert 3

Albert may be 93, but he is as alert as anyone, and fit. When he helps Mr B unload the chairs he carries six at a time.
Albert wrote an absorbing book titled, ‘Civilisation Hijacked’. It explains how good men are persuaded to do bad things.

If  you would like to buy a copy ($20) email Albert:
Albert is the husband of Jean.


News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 24th March.

In News for Speakers' Corner on March 25, 2019 at 10:52 am

“It is because Nature is ruthless, hideous and cruel beyond belief that it was necessary to invent civilisation.”  John Wyndham.

1. Mirko was up and about, and fiery. Angrily he insisted we speak logic, and he jumped on anyone who did not comply with that demand, which was nearly everyone. Mirko does indeed run a tight ship. It’s just a shame that ship is lost at sea.

Rob Gonsalves

2. A woman called Jo helps runs storytellers NSW and this morning their group had a special session  in the Botanic Gardens to celebrate World Storytelling Day. Your inquisitive scribe  was there to listen and he enjoyed the event, even though the stories were for kiddies. The tellers have an appealing way of telling stories.

Jo accepted an invitation from Mr B to join us at Speakers’ Corner afterwards, and she kindly agreed to stand on the Ladder of Knowledge and tell us a story for adults. (No, not that type of adult story. Get your mind out of the gutter.) The story was about a man seeking good luck. Jo’s gestures, facial expressions and vocal variety made this scribe realise just how much a story can be enhanced with a little effort.

Thank you, Jo!

Unfortunately, Mr B learnt nothing from Jo. Straight after witnessing the good example Jo set, Mr B was bellowing at his grasshoppers in a less than savoury manner. Pretty soon it was a free-for-all. The talented, colourfully dressed, pleasant-natured Jo, who only an hour earlier had been entertaining young kiddies with delightful stories, now sat surrounded by insults and buffoonery. It was like having Bambi sit midst a pack of rabid hyenas.

In other words, we disgraced ourselves.

Jo, from Storytellers NSW.

3. “When the stone-age people were hunting dinosaurs . . .” So said Mr B before he was promptly interrupted by Uncle Pete, and others, telling him that humans never co-existed with the dinosaurs.

The thing is, a year ago Mr B stood on the Ladder of Knowledge and said birds had evolved from dinosaurs but were not actually dinosaurs. “After all,” he explained, “the word ‘dinosaur’ means ‘terrible lizard’, and the superb blue wren is neither terrible, nor is it a lizard. To call a blue wren a dinosaur is absurd.

That sound reasoning didn’t wash with his grasshoppers, who said he had no idea what he was talking about and that birds are indeed dinosaurs. During that week he checked, and found that the “experts” do say birds are dinosaurs. So, when Sunday came around the honorable Mr B did the right and noble thing and humbly admitted he was wrong. He couldn’t argue with the experts, he said.

Privately he thought, “Piffle. Birds are not dinosaurs.”

That was a year ago. Since then Mr B has “gone along” with that “revelation” and occasionally thrown in statements like, “When the stone-age people were hunting dinosaurs . . .” just so that he can be “corrected”. Today when his grasshoppers jumped in to tell him humans and dinosaurs did not coexist he pointed out that on the contrary, we have hunted dinosaurs. That’s why the dodo and the Moa became extinct. We eat millions of dinosaurs every day. They’re called ‘chickens’.

His grasshoppers get sucked in every time.

Today his grasshoppers again took umbrage and said it was a poor use of the word ‘dinosaur’. But given that ‘birds are dinosaurs’ they don’t have a hollow leg to stand on.

He will suck them in again.

A superb blue wren, with some kale in the background.

4. Does Mr B understand the process of natural selection? Or is the problem his propensity to apply it to behaviours? Should he apply the process to behaviours when there is no evidence (and can’t be any) to prove that is justified? Uncle Pete says ‘no’ and Mr B says ‘I do, I can and I will’.

5. What was life really like in ‘the good old days’? Mr B based his observations on the many examples given in Richard Glover’s book, ‘The Land of the Avocado’.

After a while the question became, “Are young people more resilient than the kids of yesteryear?’ Mr B said ‘yes’ while others said ‘no’. Mr B felt the need to distinguish between ‘stoicism’ and ‘resilience’ and he pointed out how many old people are walking around ‘wounded’. But was he right?


6. When people say they want to limit immigration are they unfairly being called racist? The Australian Bureau of Statistics found from the 2016 census that Australia has a higher proportion of overseas-born people (26%) than the United States (14%), Canada (22%), New Zealand (23%) and the UK (13%). In the major cities it’s nearly 50%. Further, 49% of our entire population has been born overseas or had at least one parent born overseas.
So, if someone asks for a limit on immigration, are they really being racist? Especially if their objection applies to all human beings equally? Should we be asking that? Should we be aiming to reduce our population for environmental reasons?
But then, Mr B’s figure of 26% is compared with only four of 200+ nations. Is he cherry-picking?
And, perhaps a better way to determine whether a person is racist is to ask them if they want to limit immigration from particular regions.
But then, Peter the Younger pointed out that it’s not race many people object to, it’s cultural practices and cultural values.
It’s a discussion that will receive more exploration in the coming weeks.

7. Other subjects discussed:
– Mr B’s life hack (helpful tip) for this week: don’t pee in the shower. The explanation as to why was unpleasant enough, but Mirko took that unpleasantness to a whole new level. We had to change the subject, pronto.

– Mr B read a poem he thought was funny, but at its conclusion all we heard were the crickets. Not one person even smiled. (The poem was about a ne’er-do-well going to heaven and stealing St Peter’s pearly gates.)

– Why didn’t the Aborigines domesticate pigs in the 60,000 years of their occupation, like the Papuans did? Possible reasons were given.

– Helmut gave his thoughts on private schools and public schools. At first he seemed scathing of the public school system but by the end of his entertaining talk he was saying we should abolish the private school system. Go figure.

– Mr B and his grasshoppers attempted to answer a passer-by’s question, “Do deaf people talk to themselves?”

8. In our Unusual Creature Series we present to you the maned wolf of South America. It sniffed our Facebook Page.





News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 17th March

In News for Speakers' Corner on March 18, 2019 at 7:36 am

“Age does not give wisdom, it gives perspective.”
Robert Heinlen.

1. The special event was cancelled, not because Mirko’s aliens interfered, but because of the heavy rain that fell for much of the day.

Poor Tim, the organiser, put a lot of work into organising the twelve speakers, the film and sound crew, and the publicity. He deserved better. We at Speakers’ Corner send our condolences and hope he attempts many more ventures, and that all of them meet with astonishing success.

2. Have you ever wondered how Melbourne’s version of Speakers’ Corner is going? Steve Maxwell received a communication from someone called Rob Parker who lives in the southern hamlet. Rob has taken an interest in their Speakers’ Corner’ since 1960. (Your mathematical scribe suspects he is on the wrong side of 40.) Rob writes (slightly edited):

“It used to be on the Yarra River Bank. The mounds are still there, and it’s historically classified. In the early 1960s, 3,000 people would turn up, including Arthur Caldwell , MP.

However , for the past 20 years it has been in front of the library steps on Swanston Street. Over the past 12 months it has dwindled to non-existence. There has been a huge change in Melbourne because of crime and students here on study visas (100,000 a year). Maybe their past oppression makes them not want to accept freedom of speech, because they abuse the speakers with bad language.

Today, even the police struggle to accept the speaking. I had to intervene to tell them that this is history. 

Probably the greatest public speaker I’ve seen is Rhonda. In 1963 Rhonda (then Ron) spoke with fire and brimstone. So much so he was carted to the Yarra River and thrown in by hecklers. Ron had blonde hair then, and would speak at night on the corner of Bourke And Russell Street. On a soap box.

Rhonda hadn’t been speaking for a year, but now she’s back. I believe that a couple of speakers are heading up to your way , next month.

Best regards.
Rob Parker. 

There you have it!

And who will be visiting us next month? Rosalie and Rhonda, perhaps? Head for the hills!




3. In this week’s Unusual Critter Series we present to you one of the most unusual critters of all: Steve Maxwell. Here is the first of three articles Steve is writing for his absorbing Passing Parade series. The theme of all three articles is: THREE MEN WHO TYPIFY A GENERATION ON THE DOMAIN.

JACK BRADSHAW. (1840-1930)

Jack Bradshaw, self-styled “last of the bushrangers”, pamphleteer and regular speaker on Sundays in the Domain, was born in Dublin on May 9, 1840. He emigrated alone to Australia at the age of 14. Landing in Melbourne, Jack found jobs scarce. In desperation he left for the bush. By the time he reached the age of 20 he had travelled over most of Victoria, NSW and Queensland – working at odd jobs as best he could. During his wandering the young Bradshaw became fascinated by stories told over the campfire: stories of easy money and adventures of a life of crime. Romantic images inspired him to seek the company of bushrangers and petty criminals.

His romantic view of bushranging got the better of him. He believed that he and his new partner in crime, “Beautiful Davies”, a Sydney larrikin, could plan and carry out a bank hold up. Their first hold-up was a debacle. It turned out that the Bank manager’s wife was in labour. The irate midwife gave them such a tongue lashing that they left in a hurry! Next time, they successfully held up the bank at Quirindi in NSW on May 1880. Both men made a clean getaway, and divided the loot of  2,000 pounds. ( $100,000 ) Their plan was to split up for good and lie low. Bradshaw settled down as a respectable citizen and even married a squatter’s daughter in Armidale. However, Beautiful Davies rushed off to Sydney on a spending spree. It was not long before police arrested Davies and Bradshaw. They both received 12 years gaol sentences. Bradshaw was released in 1892. However, he was arrested for stealing registered mail and gaoled for a further 8 years.

Released in 1900, he found himself, age 50, unable to work because of his criminal past and too well known by police to lead a life of crime. He began to write down his misadventures, in a series of cheap editions. He then lectured and sold his books all over Sydney. Naturally he loved the Domain, where he would mount his ladder and lecture to the crowd. The people loved to hear his imaginative stories of bushrangers and reminiscences of a romantic past.

Bradshaw reminded the people that they had a past worth remembering. He always depicted himself as a bungler, which he wasn’t, to make his stories more acceptable to the public. The people wanted to hear and read about their past. At the time, hardly any Australian History was taught in school, and few books dealing with Australians were published. Jack Bradshaw was a reformed man and never committed another crime again.

He had found a way to make an honest living. He died, age 90, in St Vincent’s Hospital, Darlinghurst, just across the road from the gaol where he had served his twenty years’ sentence.

Steve Maxwell. 2019.


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