“They were funny-looking buildings, that were once a way of life,
If you couldn’t sprint the distance, then you really were in strife.
They were nailed, they were wired, but were mostly falling down,
There was one in every yard, in every house, in every town.
They were given many names, some were even funny,
But to most of us, we knew them as the outhouse or the dunny.”
The outhouse, the thunder box, the long drop, the biffy and the kybo. Most cultures around the world have some version of a toilet separated from main buildings and in Australia it’s called the dunny.
The basic design of the dunny is a hole in the ground beneath a bench with a circle cut out of it, or even a regular toilet seat, for parking the appropriate part of your anatomy.
Those that survive today are an integral part of Aussie culture and some are even tourist attractions — although that doesn’t necessarily mean you’d want to use one.
Painted, decorated or simply abandoned, here are some dunnies still making their presence felt, and smelt, around the country.
The Leaning Dunny, Silverton, New South Wales
John Dynon clearly wants people to “drop in” when they visit Silverton, although he’d probably be as happy they come to the front door for his gallery as the back for this excellent example of a traditional dunny.
Dynon is part of Silverton’s thriving art scene and runs the Silverton Outback Art Gallery, filled with paintings capturing the incredible local landscapes.
This former gold-mining town 25 kilometers from Broken Hill has featured in commercials, television shows and such classic movies as “Mission: Impossible II,” “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” and “Mad Max 2.”
While the 130-year-old town is a far cry now from the days when 3,000 people bustled around, the 60-odd residents and the trade from tourism and film have resurrected life here, and no doubt the odd use of the dunny too.
Getting there: 25 kilometers northwest of Broken Hill, along the Silverton Road; map
19 Stirling St., Silverton, New South Wales; www.silverton.org.au
Bloke’s and Shiela’s, Curtin Springs, Northern Territory
Curtin Springs station is one of the last pit stops before Uluru.
Discerning travelers usually decipher the Australian colloquialisms pretty quickly, but if they don’t realize sheilas are women and blokes are men there’s always the trial-and-error approach.
The names “bloke” and “sheila” (the correct spelling) are thought to be linked to the country’s Irish past.
Bloke may have come from a language spoken by travelling Irish salesman who, in turn, may have taken the word from Romany.
A sheila or shela/sheelagh could either be an Irish name or a figurative carving often used in Ireland over windows and doors to ward off death and evil — perhaps not inappropriate for the state of some of Australia’s dunnies.
Getting there: Located on the Lasseter Highway, 85 kilometers east of the entrance to Uluru; map
Curtin Springs Station, Lasseter Highway, Northern Territory; www.curtinsprings.com
Toilet For Freeloading Customers, Kynuna, Queensland
If you’ve driven this far out along the Matilda Highway you’ll be glad to find any available toilet.
While this dunny might not offer much in the way of privacy or plumbing, it’s a good excuse for those wishing to off-load out of the car and have a laugh.
This dunny is located near one of the state’s most iconic pubs, The Blue Heeler, which was first established in 1889 as the Kynuna Hotel and used by travelers on the Cobb & Co coach route.
Getting there: Located in northwest Queensland, 164 kilometers southeast of Mount Isa, 344 kilometers northwest of Longreach; map
Matilda Highway, Kynuna.
Mungerannie Dunny, South Australia
“Mungerannie” is an Aboriginal word meaning “big, ugly face” and that might be the face you pull when you see these facilities.
If there were ever a place you might run into something sinister, it’s this drop on the edge of the Sturt Stony, Tirari, Simpson and Strzelecki deserts.
Still, you’re at least guaranteed a queue-free experience, as the only other potential customers will be patrons of the Mungerannie Hotel on the remote Birdsville Track.
And deadly redback spiders.
The hotel was first developed, along with a store and eating house, to provide for drovers, travellers and station people in 1886, when these dunnies were commonplace.
If you don’t fancy the Mungerannie dunny, make sure you use the hotel’s facilities, as the nearest alternatives are 210 kilometers away in Maree.
Getting there: 301 kilometers south of Birdsville, 210 kilometers north of Maree on the Birdsville Track; map
Mungerannie Hotel, via Port Augusta, Birdsville Track, South Australia; www.mungeranniehotel.com.au
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