The unisex toilet block at Tickle Park where a four-year-old child was sexually assaulted on January 4.
The unisex toilet block at Tickle Park where a four-year-old child was sexually assaulted on January 4. Warren Lynam

Council rules out unisex toilet ban after sexual assault

SUNSHINE Coast Council insists unisex toilets are safe despite a community push for them to be banned in the wake of the sexual assault of a four-year-old girl at a Coolum park.

The January 4 assault happened between 4.30pm and 5.30pm in a unisex toilet at Tickle Park, Coolum, one of 49 across the Coast.

Since then, debate has raged in the community over the safety of unisex toilets, with many claiming they pose a risk to children and women.

Passionate child safety advocate, Natalie (surname withheld) claimed they attracted sexual predators.

"I believe a child - regardless of sex - should be escorted into an opposite sex toilet instead," she said.

Sunshine Coast Council however dismissed the concerns, saying they were proven to provide a safer option for the community.

The unisex toilet block at Tickle Park where a four-year-old child was sexually assaulted on January 4.
The unisex toilet block at Tickle Park where a four-year-old child was sexually assaulted on January 4. ABC Sunshine Coast

"Unisex toilets are adopted so there is increased traffic to all areas of the amenities increasing patron safety and limiting isolation or underutilisation," a spokesman said.

He said the unisex toilets were also a more appropriate facility for gender-neutral people and those with restricted mobility of disabilities.

"Where all cubicles on the Sunshine Coast are unisex, all the additional cubicles are then included by council as unisex to ensure maximum inclusivity and efficiencies," the spokesman said.

The incident was reported to police on January 5 and an investigation started.

Police believed the child wandered away from her group of family and friends and into the toilet. A man entered and sexually assaulted her.

A lack of CCTV footage near the area and minimal witnesses proved difficult for Child Protection and Investigation Unit officer in charge Senior Sergeant Phil Hurst, but he was hopeful the offender would be caught.

Detective Senior Sergeant Phil Hurst.
Detective Senior Sergeant Phil Hurst. John McCutcheon

Snr Sgt Hurst said he received some leads since urging the public for information, but nothing of substance.

New CCTV footage was retrived from Coolum Surf Club this week which was being thoroughly checked.

Snr Sgt Hurst said while it was unclear whether the offender was one of about 130 registered sex offenders on the Coast, he could have been anyone.

Hundreds of sexual offences towards children were recorded in 2018 with 122 charges directed towards young girls compared to 17 towards young boys.

"There are a whole list of people who aren't on the registered sex offender list who live in our community," he said.

"Those people are just as concerning as the ones who have been registered."

Since 2010, all public toilets comply with the Queensland Government's Crime Prevention through Environmental Design Principles.

Council said this meant all unisex toilets were fitted with direct entry cubicles to support "good natural surveillance".



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