Public facilities… do we have enough to cover us?


In the midst of summer we become acutely aware of how little sun protection we are offered at many WA public places including beaches and parks.

Of course, ravages from the sun come at other times of the year, penetrating clouds and targeting our skin.

Schools, among danger areas, are being addressed and more WA shopping centre carparks have been covered for cars.

Living in one of the world’s most dangerous regions for sun damage and with climbing death rates, skin damage and health costs, much more could be done.

Local governments provide for their thousands of ratepayers but are also called-on to protect outsiders, visitors to their beaches, parks, venues and attractions.

Given the severe limitation of council budgets, the obligation falls, surely, at the feet of our State Government as well as employers in trading areas.

Where people are knowingly exposed to danger anywhere, there is a legal and moral requirement to protect them.

Protection would include either trees or shelters, or both. But not like many so-called public shelters including bus stops and others at some beaches, that provide cover only when the sun is directly overhead.

How about a ‘Get Sun Smart’ government commitment, drawing up a high-powered committee from business, local and State government, community groups and schools?

Architects and planners could present a big picture with tasteful designs for effective, outdoor protection. A blueprint for co-ordination of life-saving sun protection. Governments could work on a budget and progressively introduce trees and shelters with a plan for ongoing maintenance.

WA could showcase itself proudly as a truly ‘Sun Smart State’. 

Some shelters may need to be transportable and demountable, especially before high winds and storms. Others would be solid and permanent.

Of course, it comes down to money.

But given the billions of dollars governments managed to produce during the pandemic, surely funds in resource-rich WA can be generated for this priority project. Some tasteful advertising on shelters may be an option, especially if the products and health-linked or carry vital government messages.

On another community health vein and important to West Australians and our visitors is the public toilet.

Embarrassingly, Western Australia’s capital city – its central retail square, Forrest Chase – has no convenient convenience.

Visitors asking for directions from the Forrest Chase information booth to city toilets are told that the nearest dunnies are across Wellington Street at the station or Yagan Square and up one of the city arcades (good luck trying to find it, especially in a hurry).

Disgracefully, despite more multi-million-dollar renovations and welcome city improvements, we don’t have a central public toilet facility.

In the recent pandemic-focus on national hygiene, we excluded the provision of toilets – and not just in the busy city square. Many public areas in our city and country have no public toilet; or they are a disgrace; or they are kept locked due to vandalism or unsocial behaviour.

Other countries manage to get around these hurdles. Some countries charge fees, some are staffed, some are government or council-funded and some show care for citizens and visitors, providing easily-accessible, free and clean toilets.

Often in Australia, the burden to maintain public toilets has been placed unfairly on nearby businesses – by order of councils. Commonly, while out-and-about, we turn to the service station, shop or hotel without being their customers. 

Health and hygiene are a responsibility of our councils and State governments. Along with water, health and hygiene are fundamental to our healthy society, these ought to be provided to ratepayers and taxpayers and kept to a high standard by our authorities.

What do we do for the health, safety and comfort of our ageing society? 

We welcome tourists, friends and relatives from interstate and overseas. Retailers spend fortunes promoting their shops. We are happy to roll out the welcome mat, but how serious are we truly about catering for visitors’ and our own society’s needs?

Perth Lord Mayor, Basil Zempilas, has promised this columnist to look into Perth’s central city toilet facilities.

What do you think?
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