Greens call for public toilets with free pads and tampons across Inner West

NSW Greens MP and Member for Newtown Jenny Leong. Photo: www.jennyleong.org.

By PETER HACKNEY

The Greens have called for more public toilets to be provided across Sydney’s Inner West and for the facilities to offer free sanitary products. 

In a statement issued today by Inner West Greens on Council, the political party said it was committed to providing public toilets within each council ward, that public toilets should be within walking distance of people across the LGA, that the facilities must inclusive and accessible to all, and that they should offer free sanitary pads and tampons.

The Greens committed to undertaking an audit to ensure public toilets within the municipality were accessible to all.

Detailing the plan, Greens MP for Newtown Jenny Leong said the Covid-19 crisis highlighted the importance of accessible, hygienic public toilets.

“Everyone deserves access to basic sanitation and hygiene. In the Inner West there are too few public toilets, and for too many people in our community they aren’t accessible or easy to use,” Ms Leong said.

“The current lockdown reminds us of the importance of accessible and inclusive public spaces. People use toilets and public facilities for a variety of reasons to take medication, manage menstruation, care for children, breastfeed infants, access drinking water, wash hands, get changed for work and attend to personal hygiene,” she said. 

“They’re an essential public service.”

Liz Atkins, the Greens candidate for the Damun (Stanmore) ward in the upcoming NSW local government elections, said public toilets in the Inner West were currently tailored towards the needs of men.

“Accessible, functional and inclusive public toilets mean providing free products for menstruation. Public toilets provide everything needed to eliminate waste hygienically, but only for people who do not menstruate,” she said.

“The fact that we don’t have free period products in public toilets is a relic from the days when women were expected to stay at home and public toilets were for men only. 

“Providing free period products in public toilets for anyone who needs them will make our community more inclusive and fairer.”

Ms Atkins identified Camperdown Memorial Rest Park as being in particular need of new, accessible public toilet facilities. 

“Greens on the Inner West Council will push for those toilets to be built,” she said.

The public toilet push follows the publication of an opinion piece by Ms Atkins in the Sydney Sentinel this morning, which called for greater LGBTQI+ representation on Inner West Council.

In the op-ed, Ms Atkins noted that while Inner West Coucnil had one of the highest proportions of LGBTQI+ residents of any LGA in Australia, it did not currently have any LGBTQI+ councillors – and that its current team of councillors include a “notorious homophone” among its ranks. 

“Does this matter? Of course it does,” Ms Atkins wrote. 

“Let’s get some queers on Council so that we can deal with the issues that affect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and other queer and gender diverse people every day,” she said.

The NSW local government elections will be held on Saturday, 4 September.

Peter Hackney is the editor-in-chief of the Sydney Sentinel.