Queensland Is the First State to Give Free Period Products in Schools, and It’s About Time
In a promising move for period poverty in Australia — an issue that 1 in 4 Australian women have faced throughout their life — the Queensland government have announced that all state schools will soon be able to provide free sanitary products for students, as part of a new $13.3 million package in the upcoming state budget.
This is a huge win for menstrual hygiene rights, something that Rochelle Courtenay, founder of Share the Dignity, says “should not be a barrier”.
“Everyone deserves the right to menstrual hygiene products regardless of their situation,” Courtenay tells POPSUGAR Australia.
“No one has ever invested in period poverty, other than us, and now it’s becoming a mainstream issue, which is really great. We’ve been chipping away at government bodies, education departments and the general public for years, and it’s as though someone has eventually gone “oh, this is important.” It’s a relief.”
In collaboration with Share the Dignity, the programme will see products be available to students via vending machines at schools that they can use for free.
The Queensland premier said in a statement on Tuesday, June 7 that every school across the state would have the opportunity to apply for a Dignity Vending Machine.
“Access to period products and misplaced stigma around periods should never be issues students face at school,” the Premier said.
“We know providing access to free period products can make a real difference, especially for students whose families are doing it tough, have unstable accommodation or are fleeing domestic and family violence.”
Having worked with the Queensland government, installing 120 vending machines in schools already, Share the Dignity’s Rochelle Courtenay thinks that this move has come about from ministers beginning to understand the gravity of period poverty, as a systemic issue.
“I think because they’ve been able to go out to the schools and have heard, first hand, some of the problems that exist, it’s made them more aware.
“It’s not just about access, it’s the fact that the conversation is taking place. The educational component of our work is something I’m super proud of, because if we don’t educate, then we can’t remove the stigma.”
Before Share the Dignity launched in 2015, there were little to no conversations about periods in general, let alone period poverty.
“I look at a future in ten years’ time, where there’s no whispering about periods or feeling ashamed that you have them, or that you can’t buy the products you need,” says Courtenay.
“As a 51-year-old woman, I don’t want Australian kids to have the same experience I had with periods in the school and workplace; one of shame and taboo. They need to be talked about, and the issue of people not being able to buy menstrual sanitary products needs to be widely recognised as an issue that can — and needs — to be resolved.”
Now that the Queensland government is taking steps in the right direction, it’s a hopeful sign other state governments will begin to take the issue of period poverty more seriously.
For menstruating people to not have access to free period products in hospitals, schools or public bathrooms, is really not acceptable in a privileged country like Australia.
“Let’s shame the others [state governments] to be better!” Courtenay says.
“We’re talking in facts now. Our recent survey shows that 22% of the population have been through period poverty — that’s 1 in 4 people unable to afford period products — and that’s just something we can’t ignore.”
If you’d give a sister a pad or tampon in need on a night out, then why not donate some to those who really need it? You can donate period and sanitary products to Share the Dignity here.