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Sanitation is a serious issue

We’d never heard of World Toilet Day, but after growing up in rural Australia we certainly know all about living without sanitation.

A UN initiative, World Toilet Day has been held for the past 15 years, with the aim of increasing awareness about the impact of inadequate toilets in people’s lives.


The aim, according to the UN and its partners, is to get the message out that toilets save lives, increase productivity, create jobs and boost economies.

It’s certainly an important issue, as Diarrhoea caused by poor sanitation and unsafe water kills at least 315,000 children each year.

We remember well the Australian ‘dunny’ – the ‘outhouse’ in the backyard with a can and wooden seat that was emptied weekly by a government worker with the quaint title of the ‘Nightsoil Man’.

Watch for redback spiders

In those days before flushing toilets, there were two key rules for using the ‘dunny’:

  • watch out for snakes sheltering in the ‘outhouse’ or spiders under the seat
  • and make sure you’re not on the throne when the ‘Nightsoil Man’ reaches in through a trapdoor in the back to slide out the full can and put in a new one.

We can smile about it now, but of course, there are still plenty of ‘dunnies’ like these in isolated areas of Australia. And some of them are certainly dinkum with an undeniable character.


Walcha Australia. Courtesy Wikimedia and Cgoodwin


Maryvale, Australia. Courtesy Wikimedia and Kerry Raymond

Beating loneliness

Some ‘outhouses’ were ready-made to beat the loneliness of life in an isolated area:


Three’s company! Wauchope, Australia. Courtesy Wikimedia and Cgoodwin

And some ‘dunnies’ can be quite a walk from the house, which is good for the nostrils but bad on a cold, rainy night

Courtesy Wikimedia and Ian Paterson

Australia certainly doesn’t have a mortgage on dinkum dunnies. As a World Toilet Day treat, here’s a few from around the globe.


Another long walk! North Yorkshire, UK. Courtesy Flickr and Ian Grattan


Church dunny, Weston Turville, UK. Courtesy Wikimedia and Chris Reynolds



Public toilet, Tibet. Courtesy Wikimedia and Michel Royon

Of course, a flushing toilet can also have plenty of character, like this example from the UK:


Courtesy Wikimedia and Ross

Or this public toilet block in Kawakawa, on New Zealand’s North Island. Known as the Hunderwasser Toilets, this block is recognised as an international tourist attraction.


Courtesy Flickr and Sids1

Or this classy public toilet at the Vienna Opera House:


World Toilet Day is held each year on November 19.

Main photo courtesy Wikimedia, Flickr and Brisbane City Council, Australia.















About Ian Roberts (264 Articles)
Ian Roberts is a veteran Australian journalist, PR man and writer/reviewer on accommodation and travel. Over many decades, Ian has travelled widely reporting and recording his experiences. His newsy columns - including Memorable Destination - have gained a big following among people seeking suggestions and objective information about accommodation, travel and destinations world-wide. Along with wife, Sue and her camera, Ian has taken up a particular challenge to help budget conscious seniors 50 and upward with travel and accommodation ideas - including suggestions for holding family reunions. Readers in Ian's home city of Newcastle Australia may also be aware of his travel and accommodation column in a local newspaper.

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