New public space fosters free speech

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Free speech has a new home in Hobart, with residents invited to have their voices heard at a new and improved Speakers’ Corner.

Located in the new Salamanca Plaza, it is hoped the space will attract a variety of speakers and encourage healthy debate and discussion within the community.

“Speakers’ corners have long featured in cities across Australia and other parts of the world as a platform for public free speech,” Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds said.

“The most famous Speakers’ Corner is in Hyde Park in London, where people have expressed their views about the government, war, voting rights and even Sunday trading.

“The use of speakers’ corners has dwindled over time, and the rise of social media has provided an alternative – albeit less personal – platform to share opinions and ideas.

“Through reinvigorating Hobart’s Speakers’ Corner, we hope to encourage people to bring back the art of public speaking and the concept of stimulating debate and discussion through the spoken word.

“We would also like to see creative people, such as poets and authors, using the space to share interesting and thought-provoking works to inspire others.

“If you have something to say, Speakers’ Corner gives you the opportunity to say it.”

The new location has been established as part of the pedestrian upgrades to Salamanca Place to provide an improved experience for both speakers and listeners and will be subject to a six-month trial period.

Community, Culture and Events Committee Chair Cr Zelinda Sherlock said Speakers’ Corner could be used for any peaceful and lawful public address.

“This might be to raise awareness about a cause you’re passionate about, providing an educational lecture on something you’re interested in, or driving discussion on an important topic,” Cr Sherlock said.

“Or it might be simply wanting to share something you’ve created with an audience, or to gain some experience in public speaking.”

Cr Sherlock said it was important that audiences respect the rights of speakers to share their opinions.

“One of the biggest ongoing challenges we face as a society is how to accept opinions that differ from our own,” she said.

“The concept of free speech only works when we respect the right of others to have their say, even if we don’t agree with it. Speakers’ corners were traditionally established to allow civilised public debate and discussion, without discrimination or oppression, and we hope that tradition will continue in Hobart.”

The new Speakers’ Corner is available for public speech between 10am and midday, Monday to Friday. Speakers can book a 30-minute session online at hobartcity.com.au/speakerscorner or by phoning 6238 2711. Permits must be displayed while speaking and the provisions of the Anti-Discrimination Act apply to all speakers.

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