Clean toilets matter to Aussies



Crohn’s & Colitis Australia (CCA) is championing World Toilet Day on 19 November by reminding the community that accessibility to clean toilets is not just a third world problem.

Australia might be aflush with toilets, with 19,000 public facilities across the nation, but there are many people who have been denied the service when they need it most. Occasions such as these can be incredibly distressing for people with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, who can experience the urgent need to go to the toilet anywhere and at any time.

By 2022 it is estimated that more than 100,000 Australians will be living with Crohn’s or colitis (collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease), so it’s important that they have one less reason to feel anxious when they leave the house. The average person goes to the toilet between 4 and 10 times per day, but people with active inflammatory bowel disease have reported that they may need to go to the toilet urgently 20 times or more a day, making these illnesses incredibly challenging to live with.

World Toilet Day (WTD) typically highlights the poor sanitation facilities in third-world countries, which is certainly a major global problem. The issues in Australia, (although different), have been overlooked but they can’t be ignored. No matter how much a person with Crohn’s or colitis plans ahead, there will be situations where they will depend on others for access to decent toilet facilities, particularly when they are in urgent need. Denying them access to a clean toilet can leave them feeling helpless, anxious, in pain and embarrassed, particularly if this leads to having an accident in a public place. It can be incredibly traumatising.

Another barrier people with Crohn’s or colitis face is that the disease is an invisible illness that not many Australians are aware of or talk about.

“At the queue to a handicapped toilet I quietly asked if I may go next as I have a colostomy bag. They looked at me as if this was the first time they had ever heard of one. A lovely lady in a wheelchair came up behind me and they instantly gushed with apologies and said, ‘oh we are so sorry, you can obviously go next’. I smiled at the lady in the wheelchair and said, ‘that’s the problem with having an invisible illness, my colostomy bag is close to exploding but no one would know it until it does’.

“The young lady in the wheelchair said, ‘I really feel for you as I get no strange looks or abuse using a handicapped toilet, and yet I am guessing you would come up against this often’. She let me go first and I heard her say to the young girls who were giving me dirty looks, ‘not all disabilities are visible girls, and it would be a good idea to remember that in the future’. Her kindness, compassion and support really meant a lot.” Tracey Murrin, CCA Ambassador

In light of this issue, CCA provides to its members with the ‘Can’t Wait Card’ which allows immediate access to a toilet to cardholders when shown to a business affiliated with the program. CCA has an open invitation for businesses to show their support and empathy for people living with Crohn’s and colitis by signing up to this program.

People with Crohn’s or colitis often depend on public facilities when travelling but in many cases these toilets fail to meet basic standards. COVID –19 has brought this issue to the forefront and we are now starting to see some municipalities across Australia offering hand sanitizer in public bathroom facilities, which is a small step in the right direction for the entire community.

Between 12th and 26th November CCA will be driving the conversation on accessibility to toilets for people with inflammatory bowel disease, as well as engaging with the community to find out their ‘go to’ best toilet spots across Australia and sharing some #loowithaview photos and fun toilet trivia.

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For media enquiries, contact Stacey James on 0490 672 900. Spokespeople available on request.

About Crohn’s & Colitis Australia

At least 85,000 people in Australia have been diagnosed with IBD— Iife-long gastrointestinal disorders that commonly present in adolescence and early adulthood. These chronic conditions can cause ulceration and inflammation in the colon (ulcerative colitis) or any part of the digestive system (Crohn’s disease). Considering the established global problem, Australia has among the highest prevalence of IBD in the world.

The hallmark of these diseases is inflammation of the gut; the bowel becomes red, hot, swollen, tender and does not function normally. This dysfunction can cause a range of problems that include diarrhoea, pain, bleeding, profound fatigue, weight loss, malnutrition, anaemia and bowel obstruction. The diseases can become so severe that hospitalisation is required, and many people affected by IBD require surgery. The acute symptoms may be extremely distressing and can affect an individual’s ability to work, study and establish relationships.

There is currently no cure for Crohn’s or colitis. This means 1 in 250 Australians are living with these chronic, unpredictable, life-long and potentially life-threatening conditions.

Crohn’s & Colitis Australia (CCA) has been working with people living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, health care professionals, governments and the public to minimise the impact that these conditions have on the community since 1985.

For 35 years, CCA has been the only Australian organisation working with and for patients and their families, the doctors that treat them, and the policymakers who can bring about change.

CCA provides high quality information, supports life-changing research and campaigns vigorously – for more knowledge, better services and more support for people affected by IBD.


CCA acknowledges and thanks our generous sponsors Abbvie and Gilead for supporting CCA’s World Toilet Day campaign 2020.