53. The Royal Commission.

“If I sleep in, I am lazy, but if I go to bed early, no one bats an eye.”

Tavit Nisanyan

1. Will we be here Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve?

Mirko, Ray and Mr B will be. Steve Maxwell will be somewhere else.

This Sunday, Mr B will bring with him a cheesecake.

Speaking of Steve, someone sent this scribe another lookalike.

2. Both Mr B and Steve Maxwell spoke about the recent report from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Mr B lambasted the Archbishops of Sydney and Melbourne for saying that the traditions regarding the Catholic confessional should not change. He received a brief dose of well mannered disagreement.

Steve Maxwell was not so lucky. On his ladder he was sorely tried by a presenting heckler who attacked him ferociously. According to Steve, “the man’s behaviour was enough to try a saint.”  But Steve says he was  not mistaken about the figures he gave, and here is the proof:

(From Page 5 of the Final Report preface and executive summary)
“It should not be assumed that many other institutions have not had significant problems. Many have. More than 4,000 individual institutions were reported to us as places where abuse has occurred. While some of these institutions have ceased to operate, others continue to actively engage with children and young people. Our resources and the risk of prejudicing criminal investigations or prosecutions meant that we could not publicly examine or report on many institutions in which survivors told us they had been sexually abused.”

(From page 11)
Table 1 – Number and proportion of survivors by institution type, from private sessions May 2013 – May 2017 All survivors Number Proportion (%)
Out-of-home cares                            2,858        41.6 %
Out-of-home care: pre-1990           2,478         36.0 %
Out-of-home care: 1990 onwards  257            3.7 %
Out-of-home care: Unknown era   150            2.2 %
Schools                                                 2,186         31.8%
Religious activities                             1,000        14.5%
Youth detention                                  551            8.0%
Recreation, sports and clubs            408          5.9%
Health and allied                                 192          2.8%
Armed forces                                         76           1.1%
Supported accommodation                68           1.0%
Family and youth support services   61           0.9 %
Childcare                                                32          0.5%
Youth employment                                17          0.2 %
Other                                                        213        3.1 %
Unknown                                                 63         0.9 %

“Out-of-home care comprises both home-based care and residential institutions. Most institution types include institutions managed by religious organisations. More than one in three survivors (36.0 per cent) said they were sexually abused in pre-1990 out-of-home care – primarily in residential institutions such as children’s homes, missions or reformatories. Just under one-third (31.8 per cent) said they were abused in a school, and 14.5 per cent said they were abused while involved in religious activities, such as attending a church or seminary. More than one in five survivors (21.0 per cent) said they were sexually abused in more than one institution.  58.6 per cent said they were sexually abused in an institution managed by a religious organisation. Almost 2,500 survivors told us about sexual abuse in an institution managed by the Catholic Church. This was 61.8 per cent of all survivors who reported sexual abuse in a religious institution.” 

Steve’s heckler

3. Young Tommy stepped onto the Ladder of Knowledge and spoke about depression, autism and asparagus. Why Tommy included asparagus in his talk this scribe has no idea. Maybe the young fellow has an allergy? Anyway, apart from leaving that mystery unanswered, young Tommy spoke well and deftly answered the questions fired at him.

4. The ‘Something Nice’ segment, to charm some and irritate others.

5. Mr B’s grasshoppers learned the significance of the statement, “Sulphur crested cockatoos eat rabbits.”

(Overseas readers: cockatoos don’t engage in that behaviour. But the statement is revalatory for reasons not explained here.)

6. Two people spoke about their relationship they had with their parents and the grief they didn’t experience when their parents died. And one person told us what it was like to be seven years old and have a parent die, and then have the other parent suffer a major stroke the next day and be bedridden for more than a decade. Phew!

This scribe reckons Sydney’s Speakers’ Corner is the best in the world because attendees contribute in a variety of ways, and they reveal their vulnerabilities. Their personal revelations make the meetings richer and we thank them for it. We thank them for talking about the things that matter.

7.  Enigma Kate spoke about politics. Are there better ways of choosing and electing our politicians?

It’s good to see Kate presenting alternative yet well considered views. Thanks, Kate!

Kate didn’t bring the background equipment with her. That was put there by the ‘Candles by Candlelight’ organisers to keep attendees entertained until the night’s concert. It’s pleasing to see them doing their bit for global warming by providing candles instead of electric lighting.

8. A passer-by on a bicycle asked Mr B, “What is success?” He told her it’s a make-believe construct that differs from person to person, and that true success only comes when you can accept yourself. The rest is just noise.

9. Unfortunately, politicians have chosen to place a permanent memorial outside the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place, so that carefree passers-by can be constantly reminded of death.


Three people died, one of them was mentally ill. We don’t need a memorial for that. Countless unknown people die in Australia, and some of them are victims of murder. If we don’t need public memorials for them, why do we need a memorial for these three?

What? Because they made the news?

One grasshopper pointed out that it was a photo opportunity from the NSW Premier. It was that, or the government was afraid that if they didn’t do it they would look heartless to the voters. So, they installed the memorial just to be on the safe side.

How about: instead of nagging carefree shoppers about the impermanence of life, couldn’t the government instead focus on working out how to support the mentally ill so that they don’t do such things in the first place? It’s a tall order, yes, but perhaps in 100 years we will succeed if that’s our focus. To install stupid memorials is to miss the point, and detract from what should be our focus.

A Charles Schultz drawing.

10. Other subjects discussed:
– Mr B could not remember the details or source of a study that included an experiment: photographs of a missing boy were placed all around a shopping mall. The young boy himself stood in the mall for hours, vainly waiting to be recognised!
That prompted Uncle Pete to tell us a funny thing that happened to him: he and his wife discovered such a poster featuring Peter’s brother! Peter rang his brother to inform him that he was missing. Peter’s brother explained that he had gone missing for a couple of days after a domestic dispute, and the police had been diligent in putting up signs!

– Mr B gave three concrete reasons why Christians don’t truly believe in the existence of their God. (Two were supplied by his friend, Jon. Thanks, Jon!)
Was Mr B being serious? Yes, he was. Were his arguments strong? He thinks so. What are the reasons he gave? This scribe ain’t telling. Ask Mr B the next time you’re at Speakers’ Corner.

– Mirko stood on the Ladder of Knowledge and generously explained how gravity makes water. This discombobulated the poor Mr B, because he had only just got his head around Mirko’s previous claim that photosynthesis made water.
It’s good to see Mirko’s advances in science continue. If Mr B cannot keep up that’s his problem.

Here is a picture of gravity making water.

11. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like our Facebook page. If you believe that, you will find our Archives site just as festive.