Killjoy was here

Mary Pool

Mary Pool, WA

You are probably wondering why, of the 2.04 billion disposable nappies Australians dump every year, I chose to write about one in particular. It was a while ago now − we had just discovered our first truly appealing free camp, on the banks of Mary Pool in the Kimberley. After setting up camp, we walked over a concrete causeway and spotted a (used) nappy thoughtlessly left lying on a flat rock next to the pool. She Who Keeps Changing Her Pseudonym hates it when I get on a rant about things like this (“bloody selfish idiots spoiling my “quiet enjoyment,” is one of my oft repeated comments).
I was going to puff and bluster this week about bloody Iraq and why are we going there (again), on a mission yet to be sanctioned by the United Nations. But I’m OK now. Alert, but not alarmed, apart from concern over the common law rights of the six people still being detained without charge after a counter-terrorism raid. They can do that, you know – it won’t happen to you, though, so worry not.
But let’s get back to the nappy story. While disposable nappies have been around since 1948, their almost universal use in first-world countries today is supported by those who say they are a safer, easier, more hygienic option than cotton nappies. But Robyn Barker, retired family health nurse and author of Baby Love, says single-use nappies have changed our behaviour. “Many otherwise fastidious people forgo the rules of normal hygiene and dump human poo in domestic wheelie bins, waste paper baskets, and public rubbish bins in parks, streets and shopping centres,” she wrote on The Drum.
From our own observations travelling many a kilometre in WA, it was no surprise to learn that Western Australia has the worst outback road litter problem of any Australian State or Territory.
The State Government makes “Outback Packs” available to people to keep in their cars so they can pick up after themselves (and others). Even so, roadside litter is often quite bad at outback rest areas and diabolical at places with no toilets. Often enough there will be more litter around the bright yellow metal bins (with heavy iron grate lids, so we can’t blame crows for the mess), than there is in the bins themselves.
Litterman 0I decided to do my own “Emu Patrol” after getting out of the car for a photo next to one of those Nullarbor road signs which warn you to watch out for camels, emus and kangaroos. I picked up a coke can, two beer cans, two stubbies, a triple-A battery (what the…?), a 1-litre plastic milk bottle, chip packets and chocolate bar wrappers and a dog-eared copy of Lazarus Rising (I made that bit up). I completely drew the line at toilet paper, ribbons of which flapped around amongst the saltbush. You’d never know where it had been, would you? I threw the bag in the back seat, irritated, swatting flies and convinced the task was only 20% accomplished. After a few more minutes down the road, SWKCHP complained about “that terrible stink” and she was right. We stopped at the next rest area and put the bag in one of the aforementioned yellow metal bins. I’m told some drivers and /or their passengers (male, obviously), pee into cans or bottles and toss them out the window.
It is this sort of deplorable behaviour that perhaps explains the excessive use of scolding signs by caravan park managers. A lot of parks have boom gates and require a $10 or $20 deposit for a key to the amenities. Upon entering said amenities, there are many and varied instructions on how to clean a toilet bowl after you have used it, and exhortations to flush twice (but not waste water, even though many of their taps need washers). One sign above a urinal said “No Smoking Grafitti” which is what you get when you use faulty ellipsis. SWKCHP particularly liked the sign that forbade men and women from sharing the same shower.
What do they expect if they are only going to give you one key? One manager wrote a mini-essay about why they lock the amenities – ‘because bludgers sneak in under cover of darkness and use the amenities and then sneak out again before sun-up without paying’.
So as usual, bad behaviour by a few tarnishes the rest and management uses bossy signs as a way of not having to hire more staff to keep an eye out for bludgers that don’t pay.
You see a lot of graffiti when you travel around this country using public amenities. Scribbling on dunny walls is a time-honoured way of leaving your thoughts, however deep or shallow, for posterity. It is also a way of declaring your public love for someone, or to leave a mobile number for anyone who wants a good time. Not all graffiti is limited to toilet walls, alas. I have lately become aware that a species of humans have been tagging and scribbling on Aboriginal rock art. Some have even had a go at mimicking said art. A few even took their own chisels, apparently.
There is a natural assumption that vandalism of this order is done by people who would not know the meaning of the word desecrate. Unhappily this is not always true. If someone scales a large rock in the remote outback and sprays “Terra Nullius” in large black letters, it is surely premeditated. This probably explains why a lot of the Aboriginal rock art we saw in South Australia is locked away behind heavy metal fences.
The ABC reported recently that vandals have permanently damaged ancient Aboriginal rock art in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. The damage at the site of some of the world’s oldest and largest Aboriginal carvings on the Burrup Peninsula has left elders devastated. Elder and senior cultural ranger Geoffrey Togo said he and others had been finding examples of people spray painting on rock art, on the face of rocks, and on some other old carvings.
“It makes me angry when they do it,” Mr Togo told the ABC.
“You don’t see me going to church and doing the same thing in the church or someone’s home.”
It’s a universal problem, unfortunately. In Washington State, the Salish tribe was assailed by the vision of someone declaring his (or her) love for ‘Miranda’. Georgia Newsday said the 43-million-year-old Tamanowas Rock northwest of Seattle has been used for millennia by the tribe for hunting, refuge and spiritual renewal rituals. So yes, the 2.5m long pink slogan, I (heart) Miranda, could in this context be deemed culturally inappropriate.
Now that you are suitably outraged, I will leave you with a bit of helpful advice about culturally appropriate practises: viz
“This is were (sic) you poo”- writ large on a dunny wall on the Nullarbor.
And this gem:


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September 19, 2014 10:00 am

nothing wrong with a good rant! it might help if our PM set a better example of respect for… there I go …

Randall Mathews
Randall Mathews
September 20, 2014 5:19 am

Beauty Bob. I enjoy your perspective.
This one seemed to stop short. After the word “gem” there was nowt. Is it my fault for using an iPad? I have downloaded all images supposedly.
Or are you having a lend of me?

John Wightman
John Wightman
September 23, 2014 6:53 am

The person with the red cross (should it not be the + configuration not the x as depicted) is demonstrating the NCP (natural crapping position) practiced by most of the world’s human population. It is apparently the best body configuration to adopt at these moments of colonic stress for avoiding bowel cancer and haemorrhoids – not many people know that. You should write a promotional song about it. [The red cross configuration was the norm among the many Asian students when I went to Imperial College in the ’60s. There was concern about the mud deposits on the toilet seats.… Read more »