Frequently asked questions relating to the following proposed change to the Community Amenity Local Law:
Removing clause 2.1 (j) to allow people over six years of age to enter a Council toilet or facility, which is signed for use by persons of a different gender.
What would this change mean?
It means people can use the toilets and facilities that they’re most comfortable using, so those identifying as non-binary, gender diverse or transgender would lawfully be able to use the toilets and facilities of their choice. Also, children over the age of six could be accompanied by a parent or caregiver of a different gender when using toilets.
Are you proposing to remove male and female signage from toilets and facilities?
No, we still plan to provide a range of male, female and unisex options across the shire.
What changes would community members expect to see?
We don’t expect to see major changes to the way the majority of people use our public toilets.
Which facilities does this part of the Local Law apply to?
All facilities, such as toilets, showers and change rooms, in Council-managed buildings.
Do other Victorian councils have a clause like the one that Surf Coast Shire Council is proposing to remove?
An audit of the other 78 Victorian councils shows that 67 (or 86%) do not have a similar clause prohibiting people of one gender from entering a facility designated for another gender.
Why doesn’t Council just add a unisex option to all of its toilets and facilities?
A lot of our existing older toilets and facilities only have female and male signed facilities and no separate unisex options. Updating all of these facilities would require significant funding and take time. Any new builds or redevelopments will include more inclusive options.
Why are you proposing this change?
To improve access and inclusion and bring the local law into alignment with legislative requirements (the Federal Sex Discrimination Act).
If this change is a legal requirement, why are you seeking community feedback?
Under the Local Government Act, any changes to the Community Amenity Local Law must include a community engagement process. While updates are required to comply with legislation, the community can provide feedback on any potential impacts or issues for consideration, which Council may be able to address in other ways.
Does this mean that anyone can act in an offensive or threatening way in toilets or facilities?
No. There are laws are in place to protect our community from people behaving in an offensive or threatening way anywhere, including in Council toilets and facilities. These laws include the Summary Offenses Act 1966 (Section 17 - obscene, indecent, threatening language and behaviour in public, and Section 19 – sexual exposure) and the Crimes Act 1958 (Section 48 – sexual activity directed at another person). People should always call the police if they have any safety concerns.
What are examples of the ways in which the current local law discriminates against people who identify as gender diverse, non-binary and transgender?
Many local public toilets such as Bells Beach only have male and female toilet options – and no unisex options – so there are currently no options for people who identify as non-binary or gender diverse.
Because ‘gender’ is not defined in the local law, it would legally revert to being interpreted as sex, so the clause as it stands does prevent a transgender person from lawfully using a bathroom that matches their gender identity.