Period pain

Representatives from a charity trying to end ‘period poverty’ are on their way to Western Australia to spearhead a campaign for the state to provide free sanitary products in schools.

All states and territories except Western Australia and the Northern Territory provide some level of access to free period products in public schools.

Founder and managing partner of Share the Dignity Rochelle Courtenay says these are important programs, which rely entirely on organisations like hers.

“We can’t afford to keep doing this … we’re going to buckle. What happens then?”

Western Australia doesn’t offer free sanitary care items to public school students. Photo: Ash Ramos.

Scotland became the first country to provide free sanitary products after a bill passed through parliament on Monday, after receiving a unanimous vote.  

Victoria became one of the first states in Australia to provide free sanitary products to students in government schools through dispensing machine, which were installed in 2019. According to the Victorian government there are plans to expand access to part of Melbourne’s city centre.

Access to tampons and sanitary pads comes at a price in Western Australia. Photo: Ash Ramos.

South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, and Tasmania followed Victoria’s lead, introducing free period products to students in government schools.

Ms Courtenay has provided schools across Australia with vending machines which dispense tampons and period pads.

She welcomed Scotland’s move, saying the ACT isn’t far behind as it consider a bill, designed to end period poverty by providing free sanitary products to those who need it.

“Our vending machine was the first in the world to dispense free period products. It has two pads and six tampons in them. In WA we have around 14 schools, but we have the most amount of Dignity vending machines in WA than we have anywhere in Australia.”

Listen to more from Rochelle Courtenay.

Although some WA schools have access to the vending machines, sanitary items are not free-of-charge.

She says Share the Dignity has been in talks for a number of years with WA’s Department of Education to try change this.

Listen to more from Rochelle Courtenay.
There’s a consensus among uni students for free period items. Footage: Ash Ramos.

Artist and menstrual advocate Lucy Peach – also know as ‘The Period Preacher’ – wants to change the way people view periods.

“Charities like Share the Dignity have done so much to bring awareness and attention to making sure that we’re not forgetting the most vulnerable people in the community as well,” she says.

Listen to more from Lucy Peach.

The Minister for Health, Amber-Jade Sanderson, was contacted for comment.

The Minister for Child Protection and Women’s Interests, Simone McGurk, was not available for interview but a spokesperson ruled out the prospect of WA following in Scotland’s footsteps.

“The Scotland model is not currently being considered by the State Government, however we are regularly looking at schemes in other jurisdictions to determine what could be effectively delivered in WA.”

Ms Peach says it’s time to end the stigma around periods.

“People don’t want to talk about something difficult because we don’t know how,” she says.

“It’s time we tackle those issue are a bit uncomfortable.”

Listen to more from Ms Peach.

Categories: General