This might just be me, but I am constantly paranoid that I will not be able to find a decent public bathroom when I am out and about. Oh sure, I could just go to any old public toilet, but I am sure we can all agree that 99 percent of them are so horrible, unclean, and badly maintained that our precious out-holes should quite rightly refuse to be within twenty metres of them, let alone use them.
I have therefore made a list – a very short list – of what I consider to be acceptable public bathrooms in the Sydney CBD area. If you would like my recommendations, contact me at any time and we can share bathroom knowledge together. Seriously, it will not be weird at all.
I hoped that by putting in the time and effort to research bathroom laws in Australia I could prove my local council had failed in its duty to provide clean, safe, accessible, and modern public bathrooms. I was very disappointed when I saw the results of my efforts. Now I know how my parents felt when they saw me pop out at my birth.
Each state and territory has its own Local Government Act, which sets out the things local councils are legally required to provide to their citizens. None of those acts requires any local council to provide public restrooms of any sort, which I find to be very disappointing indeed.
However, if a local council chooses to install public bathrooms it must make sure each of them meets a bunch of legal requirements, like making sure they are accessible for the disabled and relatively safe and clean.
Some councils have decided to go above and beyond their legal requirements as well, by setting some basic requirements for the public toilets in their council area. For example, the council for the city of Sydney aims to ensure that at least one public toilet is available within 400 metres of any point within central Sydney, and that toilet facilities are provided at all major shopping areas and in large neighbourhood parks that have play equipment or sports facilities. However, like my own aim when using a public restroom, Sydney’s city council is pretty hit and miss in achieving its public bathroom quality and quantity benchmarks in my experience.
Let’s take a step into the more controversial aspects of bathroom laws, now that we are sufficiently warmed up. There are, as yet, no clear laws in Australia on whether public bathrooms must provide a separate stall or cubicle for transgender people, or whether that person can use a bathroom allocated for the gender they identify with, rather than the gender they were born into.
Now, it is illegal under our laws to discriminate against someone based on their gender identity, but no Australian court has clearly and definitively said one way or the other whether a council (or other public body like a public school or government department) that fails to provide transgender bathroom facilities or that prevents a male who identifies as female (or the other way around) from using the female (or male) designated bathroom has discriminated against that person.
Another important bathroom question: is it illegal to use a disabled bathroom if you are not disabled?
No, it is not illegal. The reason it is not illegal is because disabled bathrooms are, more accurately, ‘disabled accessible’ rather than ‘disabled exclusive’ so technically an able-bodied person is legally allowed to use a disabled toilet.
However, it does make you a serious asshole if you use a disabled bathroom and are not disabled. Please, please leave the disabled toilet for the truly disabled. I don’t care if it is cleaner, has a shorter line outside it, or feels more fun or exciting to you. Think of using a ‘normal’ public toilet as a small price to pay for not being disabled.