This month, Deakin University began developing plans to introduce gender-neutral bathrooms across their Burwood, Warrnambool and Geelong campuses. The University will join the ranks of Swinburne University and Melbourne University who have implemented non-gendered bathrooms over the past three years.
The decision was made after Deakin’s student association DUSA, created and presented a proposal to the university. The idea to devise the proposal was first brought to DUSA’s student council board by Queer Officer Tam Hovenga-Wauchope who then collaborated with DUSA president Dana Harding, after the student council board voted in support of establishing a proposal.
“I’m the first queer officer for DUSA, but have been involved in the queer community at Deakin throughout my time as a student. [I’ve] hung out in the queer room and spoken to people and talked about what was missing…
I think that gender neutral bathrooms really – practically and symbolically – say that gender diverse and trans students are a part of our community, and that they should be able to fully participate in all aspects of student life. I am very passionate that there should be bathrooms for everyone,” said Ms Hovenga-Wauchope.
DUSA proposed that all single-stall toilets and select multi-stall toilets be re-signed to “indicate they are accessible for people of all genders”. The president of DUSA, Dana Harding, stressed that the proposal is mindful of those who have concerns about gender-neutral bathrooms.
“We’re not suggesting a full scale roll out of gender neutral toilets. We respect there are religious elements or peoples faith. Some women wouldn’t be able to share a bathroom with a man because of their faith or some people might not feel comfortable doing that and that comes from greater-scale social issues. We are mindful of that in going forward with the proposal and we’re not trying to get rid of all the gendered toilets… It’s just [about] providing appropriate options for everyone,” she said.
Deakin University has a reputation for its student satisfaction (it has been the leader in graduate satisfaction in Victoria for six consecutive years). So it is no surprise that the university is continuing to make progressive changes for it’s students and staff. And so far, student feedback in regard to the gender-neutral bathrooms has been positive. “Students were overall really supportive of it. It reflects that we have an overall progressive but also inclusive community, which I think is really important,” said Ms Harding.