Risk warning

 From time to time I keep a quite disinterested eye on PLC Sydney (originally Presbyterian Ladies College) at Croydon.

I remember Bill McKeith, the principal there, from his youth. When, also from time to time, I drive through Croydon, I am impressed by the extent to which the school has practically taken over the northern side of the railway line and all possible sites adjacent to its campus. They’ve even bought the neighbouring pub, just as Moore College did, years ago, with the White Horse Hotel.  Even longer ago, Sydney University resumed and razed practically all of Darlington, including the quaintly-named (after Thomas Moore – who remembers him?) Lalla Rookh Hotel. At least PLC has left the building standing.

So, by a circuitous route, I came across this description of “Debating” on the school’s website:

Debating is an activity in which students are able to actively demonstrate many key competencies such as organising and planning, using information, working in teams, solving problems and communicating ideas. Debating fosters tolerance and the understanding of different perspectives by requiring the examination of an issue from a point of view that you do not necessarily share or having to passionately argue a philosophy that you find questionable or objectionable.

Debating at PLC Sydney has a long and impressive history of achievement in developing speakers of all levels of ability. The college has competed in the Independent Schools Debating Association (ISDA) for the last five years and has had a long-standing commitment to the Archdale Debating Competition, which involves many of Sydney’s girls’ schools, enjoying success in both competitions at Semi-Final and Final level. PLC Sydney enters teams into the Junior and Senior Debating Sections of the AHIGS Festival of Speech, producing outstanding results and performances over the history of the competition. Teams competing in the Macquarie Cup and the Commonwealth Bank Senior Debating are challenged by being placed in competition with a range of Public, Catholic and Independent Schools. The college organises Social Debates with surrounding schools as well as honouring our commitment to a regular competition with Trinity Grammar School with the PLC/Trinity Challenge. PLC Sydney values the success of all its students and believes in fostering a wide range of abilities, in addition to encouraging a supportive and cohesive student body. Students who are involved in debating develop indispensable skills that serve them well in their years beyond school.

So far, so good. But to it is appended a notice labelled “Risk Advice,” as follows:

Non-Sporting Activities
PLC Sydney organises many activities during the course of the year such as debating, drama,
orchestra, choir and public speaking. Students participating in these activities take part in practice, performance and in competitions.
The Association of Heads of Independent Girls’ Schools (AHIGS) administers and convenes
inter – school activities (such as Archdale Debating and Festival of Speech) in which many
students, including students of this school, participate.
While PLC Sydney and AHIGS take measures to make the activities as safe as possible for
participants, there is a risk that students can be injured and suffer loss (including financial loss) and damage as a result of their participation in these activities, whether at practice or in actual events.
Injury can occur while the student is engaging in or watching an activity, or travelling to and from the event. The injury may result from a student’s actions or the actions of others.
In very rare cases the injury can be life threatening or result in permanent disability.
Students could also suffer loss as a result of their personal property being lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed.

You can look up section 5M for yourself. The key subsections are:

(1) A person ( “the defendant”) does not owe a duty of care to another person who engages in a recreational activity ( “the plaintiff”) to take care in respect of a risk of the activity if the risk was the subject of a risk warning to the plaintiff


(5) A risk warning need not be specific to the particular risk and can be a general warning of risks that include the particular risk concerned (so long as the risk warning warns of the general nature of the particular risk).

I particularly like this part of the warning:

Injury can occur while the student is engaging in or watching an activity, or travelling to and from the event. The injury may result from a student’s actions or the actions of others.

It reminds me of the old VB ad voiced-over by the late John Meillon.

But where are the warnings about becoming cynical, inured to the use of Hitler as an example for anything, or a lawyer?

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