The Cistern Chapel in the city of Maryborough in Queensland Australia has become the hottest seat in town. Here’s why you must visit this public toilet, also affectionately known as the Divine Dunnies, which everyone is talking about. Indeed, queues have formed on busy days as visitors line up to have a look at this beautiful art installation.
The public toilets adjacent to City Hall have been transformed into magnificent works of art, with walls, ceilings and doors adorned with beautiful artworks. Adding to Maryborough’s reputation for showcasing terrific public art, these painted public toilets are a welcome addition to the Maryborough Mural Trail. In a cheeky nod to Michaelangelo’s brushstrokes on the Sistine Chapel which honour consecrated spaces, the Queensland city of Maryborough has taken the humble public toilet and given it damn good shake-up.
The Ladies ‘chamber’ is a contender for Australia’s most beautiful toilet. Bathed with light from a wall of glass, crystal chandeliers dangle from a vaulted ceiling with delicate clouds. Elegant ladies gaze demurely from blossoming gardens, while one cubicle is gilded with gold walls and has a golden, if somewhat garish, toilet.
In the Parents Room, Mary Poppins, whose character was famously created by Maryborough’s favourite daughter PL Travers, floats skyward beneath an umbrella bathed in light radiating from a hot air balloon suspended from the ceiling. Walls are adorned with rolling meadows, butterflies, frogs and farm animals.
The artists behind the Cistern Chapel
This public toilet block with its magical artwork, which was formerly dark and dank and definitely unsavoury, is spreading pure joy with plenty of cheeky, quirky humour to make people smile. There’s a downright festive air around the public loos with divine views.
Artists were chosen from a tender process, with Fraser Coast locals Akos Juhasz and Gary Madden the key artists involved. Akos’ work is well-known in the region with many local murals featuring Akos’ unique style. Gary Madden has created a soothing space in the Parents Room with plenty of quirky characters and icons such as Mary Poppins to appeal to youngsters. Piped music themed for each space adds to the sense that this is much more than a regular public toilet.
The community behind the Cistern Chapel
Over a couple of years, a ‘Divine Dunnies’ volunteer committee raised almost $100,000, got the Fraser Coast Regional Council onside and generated support from local businesses, to unveil a masterstroke of public art this week.Nancy Bates, community champion and former editor of local newspaper the Fraser Coast Chronicle, led the charge. Nancy had visited the previous toilets, saw how unsavoury they were and set the wheels in motion to bring the toilets that she thought were ‘1950’s dowdy’ pirouetting elegantly into the 21st century.
‘We wanted a Victorian theme throughout, but also wanted to feature the Crimson bottlebrush which is the floral emblem of Maryborough,’ Nancy says.‘In the female area we wanted something feminine. We have chandeliers, gilded mirrors, and of course, the gold toilet,’ she says, in reference to the throne whose gilded Insta-fame is set to skyrocket once it appears on the radar of road warriors, grey nomads and van-life road trippers.‘In the men’s area we wanted to focus on trains and steam, which is very much Maryborough’s heritage. It’s all very blokey stuff,’ Nancy says.
Look a little closer and the toilet humour throughout is unmistakable. A larger than life Apollo Belvedere-esque male glides above the men’s urinal, magnifying glass in hand, seemingly suggesting that size matters. Maryborough’s rail history is honoured with Mary Anne, the first steam train to be built in Queensland. On the opposite wall, the former Mayor who literally ‘poo-pooed’ the development of a city-wide sewage system to replace night-carts stares forlornly across a triptych of flashy urinals. The men’s cubicle is themed on Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and is all sharks, octopus and schooling fish.