Most people today, if they noticed them at all would be puzzled by the rock-lined mounds located in the corner of a city park near the bank of Melbourne’s Yarra River. The Speakers’ Corner is set among the shade of oak trees in Yarra River Park and was a significant part of social life and debate, particularly during times of unrest such as World War I, the Great Depression, and the 1940s, when leftist politics were beginning to feel the force of repression.
It was originally a one-hectare site and heavily treed. Crowds would gather on Sundays at the western tip of what was then Flinders Park. Speakers would stand atop one of the nine bluestone-faced granite mounds. These mounds were called the “stumps” after the tree-stumps that shearers would stand on during meetings in the bush.
Anyone could get up and speak, but members of some groups would be regulars, including the Communist Party and the Catholic Evidence Guild. The atmosphere has been reported as spirited but generally jovial, and included good-natured, jeers, heckling, and hollering heard from the crowd. Since the 1960s, and with the rise of more varied media, the site has been comparatively quiet, serving as a meeting place for participants following the annual May Day parade each year.
Speakers’ Corner commemorates those throughout history who have informed the public of matters of interest and concern and symbolizes the importance of the place as a site for free speech. Interpretive sculptures have also been added, comprising four low-lying, stepped pink-granite outcrops which are inscribed with quotations.
Know Before You Go
Located off Batman Avenue on the outskirts of Melbourne’s CBD in Yarra River Park.