Casuarina Square, a shopping centre in the Northern Territory, is leading the way in the gender equality design realm, constructing all-gender parents’ rooms and toilets to ensure maximum comfort for all patrons of the shopping centre.

Hames Sharley has been commissioned by the centre to refurbish five of its public toilet amenities including new parents rooms. After discussions with key community groups, the shopping centre management wanted to create a greater feeling of inclusivity, which became a core component of the design brief for the architectural practice.

In addition to the parents’ rooms, we also decided to include a parent/child toilet cubicle in both the male and female toilet blocks. The idea was sparked by feedback from some fathers indicating a lingering hesitance to use parents’ rooms during community consultation. As a result, the centre decided to provide a range of options for accompanying small children to the toilet, whether in a designated parents room or within the traditional public toilet blocks.

The parents’ rooms were designed to be completely non-gendered, and the natural, earthy colour palettes chosen to the non-gendered directional signage reflects this decision. Each parents’ room is different, but the common theme of nature is seen throughout, featuring indoor plants, animal graphics and natural scents of florals and citrus. Features include necessary amenities, such as adult and child sized toilets, baby change tables, bottle prep stations, private feeding rooms and a space to entertain and educate small children.

Further expanding on the inclusiveness of the public toilet area, all-gender toilets have also been designed. Working closely with the local LGBTIQ+ community, great consideration was given to the signage and language used to ensure maximum inclusivity. Ultimately, the signage chosen for these toilets featured a traditional stick figure male, a stick figure female, as well as a third stick figure in half pants, half dress. These toilets were named ‘all-gender toilets’ used to ensure it didn’t give the appearance of being a ‘trans only’ toilet, but rather a welcoming space for everyone. The local community has signalled its approval of the move, and are thrilled with Casuarina Square’s decision to make inclusive design choices.

Hames Sharley prides itself on its inclusivity both in its office and reflected within its projects. The company says in a press release regarding the work conducted at Casuarina Square that it hopes that projects like this will become normal as time progresses.

“This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Choose to Challenge’, which aims to call out gender bias and inequality to help create a more inclusive world. And by providing toilet facilities and parents’ rooms for all; for male and female, cis and transgender, Casuarina Square has done just that.

“Working on projects such as this really highlights the need for more inclusivity, and how simply by acknowledging peoples’ different needs, we can design in a way that caters to all members of the community. 

“Casuarina Square has taken a huge step forward in not only listening to its community and making them feel heard, but by including them in the decision making process. Hopefully this will be the first of many such projects that challenge the status quo and help create a more inclusive world through thoughtful, considered design.”