High commendation for dunny run

A Tweed Shire Council accessibility project that evaluated accessibility of public toilets has earned national praise for combining the expertise of Council staff with the lived experience of people with a disability.

The recent National Awards for Local Government awarded a High Commendation to the project, which was a partnership between Council and members of the Tweed Shire Council Equal Access Advisory Committee to audit and upgrade accessible public toilets throughout Tweed Shire.

Dubbed the On The Dunny Run by the three members of the audit group, the project audited all 34 designated unisex accessible public toilets in Tweed Shire, from Pottsville to Tweed Heads and Murwillumbah, and led to upgrades to 30 of them.

While the three-month audit attracted more than its fair share of puns and laughs, the ‘dunny run’ had a very serious objective and a successful outcome, according to the project’s coordinator, Council Community Development Officer – Ageing and Disability Karen Collins.

“Most people take public toilets for granted, at least until they really need one and there isn’t one on hand,” Ms Collins said.

“However, access to toilet facilities can mean the difference between social inclusion and isolation for a significant proportion of people particularly those living with a disability.

“The availability of suitable toilets can often have a large bearing on where people can go and how they can be involved in the community.”

The ‘dunny run’ was also commended because it called on the experiences of the audit team’s other two members, Equal Access Advisory Committee representatives Suzy Hudson, who has a vision impairment, and Una Cowdroy, who uses a motorised wheelchair.

“It was this partnership approach, involving the actual users of the facilities, that made the project stand out,” Ms Collins said.

Suzy and Una are among 11 “ordinary Tweed residents” featured in an Untold Stories: living with ability exhibition, which was on display at Tweed Regional Museum throughout June.

They were at the exhibition – which documents their personal and often pioneering lives in their own words – when they received news of the high commendation.

It was not the first time the project has been recognised. The audit team, with the support of Equal Access Committee Chair Wendy Gilbett, has presented at two conferences, in Coffs Harbour in 2015 and at the national Universal Design Conference in Sydney in 2016.