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For other uses, see Dunny (disambiguation).

Dunny or dunny can is Australian slang for toilet, either the room or the specific fixture, especially an outhouse or other outdoor toilets. It is often used to specify a distinction between a flushing toilet and a non-flushing toilet (e.g., a longdrop or thunderbox). First used in print in 1952, the word is believed to be derived from the much older 'dunnakin' (also spelled 'dunnigin' and 'dunegan')[1] meaning privy.


Triple seated dunny, Wauchope, New South Wales

Traditionally an outhouse could be found in unsewered areas and consisted of little more than a seat placed over a can or cesspit. The latter variation can be referred to more specifically as a longdrop. The outhouse would be maintained at some distance from houses for reasons of smell and hygiene. The sheds themselves were generally made of either wood or corrugated iron, to facilitate the moving of the outhouse if required. In mining areas outhouses are sometimes placed over disused mine shafts.

Norman Park, Queensland, like many areas of Brisbane was unsewered until the late 1960s, with each house having an outhouse or "dunny" in the back yard.

By the middle of the twentieth century, outhouses had become much less common as modern plumbing diminished the need to keep toilets at a distance from the house. Nevertheless, even some large cities, such as Brisbane, had unsewered suburbs where residences required outhouses into the early 1970s, and they lingered on in Tasmania until the early 1980s.

In built up areas it was unhygienic to rely on cesspits and the usual arrangement was for waste to be collected in a can placed under the dunny. The cans would be collected, emptied, washed and replaced weekly by contractors hired by the local city or town council.

In modern times, many outhouses on old houses remained in use, but have been refitted with modern plumbing and flushing toilets. They are also used in areas too remote to justify the expense of pumping water and sewage piping to, but where there is a need for toilet facilities, such as at remote campsites or along walking tracks. Farmers and station owners sometimes also construct outhouses at remote but often used yards or sheds.

The Great Australian Dunny Race has become an icon during the Weerama Festival at Werribee.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Grose, Francis. "1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue". Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  2. ^ The Great Australian Dunny Race Retrieved on 14 March 2009

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