The Cemetery, the Council and the Coffin-shaped Conveniences! Australia’s Scenic Public Toilet #30
In Scenic Public Toilet world, where I humbly claim to be an Australian expert (I HAVE written a book – Aussie Loos with Views after all), I thought I’d seen it all!
From the vast, sweeping plains of the Queensland Outback; the spectacular ‘Bali Hai’ backdrop of Lord Howe Island; the magnificent Southern Yorke Peninsula coastline; the RED rocky ranges of the Northern Territory; the high country of Victoria; and the drama of plunging cliffs and blowholes in Western Australia, I’ve been privileged to discover – and use for their intended purpose – some of the most amazingly scenic amenities on earth!
But I never thought it’d be my pleasure to do my business in a coffin!
We extended our July 2011 stay in the excellent Millaa Millaa Tourist Park on the outskirts of this tiny Atherton Tablelands town in the shadow of Mt Bartle Frere (Queensland’s highest mountain) and Mt Bellenden Ker (Queensland’s 2nd highest mountain) several times.
That’s because it’s an excellent and superbly scenic base from which to explore the whole tablelands region. Most of which can be seen from the Millaa Millaa Lookout, starting with Mt Bartle Frere’s bulk and sweeping around over the superb green panorama that makes up this cool – both literally AND figuratively – tropical paradise.
Just down the road are the archetypal Millaa Millaa Falls – so named (by me) because the word ‘waterfall’ probably conjures up an image something like the falls in the photo below, right??
Further afield past magnificent rainforest and one of the more picturesque landscapes in OZ is the excellent Train to Tumoulin; the plunging Crater at Mt Hypipamee, and the marvellous Mungalli Creek Dairy and Organic Cafe!
And that’s just what’s REALLY close!!
Somehow, in the midst of all this traveller’s fantasy world, I missed the unique coffin-shaped public toilet in the Millaa Millaa cemetery.
Don’t ask me how I missed the Millaa Millaa Coffin Loo. Although I’d like to think it’s because it hadn’t been built back then …
But now, however, after a disturbing report from readers Cheryl and Franciscus, it looks like I’ll NEVER have the chance to do my business in a coffin!
Because according to an article from on Cairns.com.au*, the Millaa Millaa Coffin Loo was recently condemned!
Awhile back, the local chamber of commerce asked the shire council for an amenities block in the cemetery to make it easier for residents to attend funerals.
Now correct me if I’m wrong, but my experience tells me that: 1) a higher number of older than younger people die; and 2) a higher number of older than younger people experience body malfunctions requiring a quick trip to the conveniences.
Ergo: the profile of a funeral attendee is an older person requiring the conveniences to be … well … convenient!
The factors making Millaa Millaa a tropical anomaly – single digit winter temperatures and high incidence of mist and fog – already make standing in the cemetery for any length of time an uncomfortable experience for a funeral goer (as profiled above). But factor in the effects of the cold and distance of the cemetery from the town, and it’d hardly be a surprise if funeral attendance dropped off!
While I don’t have the benefit of council research and statistics, the Cairns Post article indicates that the council refused the request for cemetery conveniences on the grounds that it didn’t have the $80,000+ required for such a building.
So what’s a chamber of commerce with initiative, drive and the support of the majority of the community to do?
Build their own, of course!!
And while it’s bizarre, but possible that the chamber of commerce has never heard of the Red Nomad OZ penchant for public potties, their Millaa Millaa Coffin Loo – using volunteers and donated materials – immediately captured my attention!
At a cost of only $1200 – more than 66 times cheaper than the council’s own cost estimate! Perhaps they should become consultants and on-sell their innovative budget approach around the country, or even the world!
But I digress …
While this solidly constructed septic system loo on council land doesn’t a) have council planning approval, or b) meet all council planning requirements, it’s difficult for me to understand how it would cost another $75,000+ to ensure that it does.
But … I’m not a tradie, so maybe I just don’t get it.
Weirdly, letting the Millaa Millaa community keep its toilet apparently means others could – would – do the same thing according to the council, a strangely embarrassing indictment in my opinion. For if the council truly believes that other communities would build their own amenities once they’d tacitly green-lighted the Millaa Millaa Coffin Loo, surely this is an acknowledgement that there aren’t enough?!
While keeping the toilet operational until such time as the Council has funds for a ‘proper’ one might seem a logical compromise to laypeople such as I, apparently the dangers of a well-built septic toilet (albeit one not complying with council specifications) are too great.
So, last rites have been held and the loo removed to protect the Millaa Millaa residents from its dastardly dangers. AND any errant tourists who might find it amazingly, awesomely Australian.
So the ABC News website tells me.
Naturally, there are more than two sides to this tragic tale. I’m sure the council really DIDN’T have the money to spend on a cemetery toilet, given there’s already a public toilet in the fine picnic and barbecue area in main street.
Graced, incidentally, by the fine artwork in the previous photo.
And unlike me, there are those who find a coffin-shaped toilet in a cemetery offensive – SO offensive that they spray it with graffiti, even though according to my sources, over 300 (around 90%) of the townspeople have signed a petition in support of maintaining their gloriously gothic loo.
The final tragedy is that even though the Millaa Millaa Coffin Loo has just been moved down the road, it’s lost the location that made it unique so I’ll never be able to give it the full benefits of the Red Nomad OZ treatment.
I’ve never actually seen the conveniences for myself, and photos are via Cheryl and Franciscus (blessings to you both); Pat Reynolds (Chamber of Commerce president) and the Cairns Post.
And although the devastating irony of such un-Australian treatment of something so quintessentially Australian on the eve of Australia Day means I’ll never see it in its rightful place, I’m not letting Australia’s Scenic Public Toilet #30 get away!
Visit the Millaa Millaa Cemetery Loo Facebook Page HERE and show your support!!
* Much of the information in this post came from the original Cairns Post article