Saturday, June 15, 2024

Shopping centre’s solution to common parents’ gripe divides Aussies

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An Aussie shopping centre appears to have found the solution to an issue many Aussie mums and dads say they regularly deal with. The centre in southwest Sydney installed an intercom on the outside of its parents’ room to ensure the essential facility is only used by those it’s designed for.

Sydney mum Irene was impressed by the new approach when she came across it recently, but the co-founder of a parenting support group expressed concerns that the room may become inaccessible when the intercom isn’t staffed.

“This system means our team can ensure the rooms are being used appropriately by parents with children or by others who may require a quiet space temporarily,” a spokesperson for Vicinity Centres, which manages the shopping centre, Bankstown Central, told Yahoo News Australia. The spokesperson added that the intercom is monitored by a member of the management team.

The sign next to the intercom (left), the change tables inside the parents room (middle) and a private space (right).

The intercom at Bankstown Central’s parents room is staffed by the centre’s management team. Source: TikTok/wifeoflucifer_

Irene shared a video of the parents’ room online in which a sign can be seen hanging next to the intercom that also includes a camera.

“Please press the intercom button for access to this parent room,” it read. “This facility is intended for the use of parents and primary caregivers to care for children and others. If you are not using it for this purpose, access may be denied.”

Irene was happy to see the new system in place, saying she’s never seen a parents’ room with an intercom before. She said she welcomed the initiative after having to deal with people who shouldn’t be using the space in multiple shopping centres.

“Often it’s teenagers, or adults with trolleys who may find the regular bathrooms hard to access because of their trolley, or there’s a lot of staff heating up lunches,” the mother-of-two told Yahoo News Australia.

“And as a result, parents are left waiting to heat up their baby’s food or bottle, and then they’re faced with really dirty microwaves because they’ve been used to heat up adult people’s food and you open it and think, ‘Oh, I don’t want to put my babies bottle in that’.”

Sydney mum Irene and her son (left) and Irene and her family. Sydney mum Irene and her son (left) and Irene and her family.

Sydney mum Irene, who has two little boys, said she’s dealt with people inappropriately using the parents room before at multiple shopping centres. TikTok/wifeoflucifer_

The 35-year-old, who has a five and almost three-year-old son, said once they were made to wait for the toilet because a Woolworths worker was using the cubicle in the parents’ room.

“I just thought, my busting five-year-old has been waiting for an adult to come out of the bathroom that they shouldn’t have been using,” she said, adding that there were alternate toilets including accessible facilities nearby.

Irene isn’t alone in her irritation. A video she uploaded to social media about the intercom system in the Bankstown Central parents’ room has since been viewed more than 24,500 times by many irate parents.

“The other day my baby was crying as they were hungry, I went to the room to heat up formula and a staff member was there heating up a curry for five minutes!” one disgruntled mother wrote online.

“I went to the parents room and two teen girls were eating hot chips, sitting on the only two change tables in the room, and wouldn’t move for my baby,” another said, while someone else complained that they’d come across two girls piercing their noses in a facility.

Another said they were “abused” for changing their son’s nappy because “a lady was praying and wanted quiet”, while another parent found an elderly lady taking a nap.

But the intercom initiative hasn’t been welcomed by all parents. Lana Sussman, the co-founder of parenting support service The Parents Village, said it could cause problems.

“What if no one is there and someone is busting for the toilet or their baby is screaming and they’ve got to be let into a room,” she told Yahoo News Australia. “I don’t see how that would work. To me, that’s not a great idea.”

An aerial shot of Bankstown Central.An aerial shot of Bankstown Central.

Vicinity Centres, which manages Bankstown Central, said the intercom system means its team can ensure the rooms are being used appropriately. Source: Bankstown Central

Instead she said, shopping centres should have a camera outside the parents room and some signage about the appropriate use of the facility, and anyone coming in to use the room inappropriately could be reported.

Sussman did agree however that there is “definitely” an issue with staff using parents room.

“Shopping centres should provide another space for staff to refill their water bottles and to have a microwave that they can use,” she said, also flagging hygiene concerns with staff using facilities that contain bathrooms to heat their food.

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