8 June 2023

ACT becomes first jurisdiction in Australia to provide free menstrual products

| Lizzie Waymouth
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Woman browsing period products on shelf

According to Share the Dignity, period products cost someone on average $20 per month. Photo: File.

The ACT has become the first jurisdiction in Australia to pass legislation requiring the government to provide free menstrual products at designated and accessible places.

The Period Products and Facilities (Access) Bill introduced by Suzanne Orr MLA passed on 7 June, leading the way for other states and territories to offer period products and information on menstrual hygiene for those who need it.

“I am pleased that here in the ACT, we are the first government to provide period products free of charge and ensure that crucial information on menstrual hygiene is available to the community,” Ms Orr said.

“The ACT is the first jurisdiction in Australia to pass this nation-leading reform, and I would encourage all other states and territories to be inspired by my bill so that no one who menstruates is ever in need.”

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Rochelle Courtenay, founder and managing director of women’s charity Share the Dignity, told Region: “It’s very significant. There’s nothing like it in Australia.”

While access to free menstrual products in public locations was pledged as a policy in the 2022 Victoria state election, the ACT is the first jurisdiction to enshrine it into law. It follows in the footsteps of Scotland, the first country in the world to make period products free.

Share the Dignity has been working alongside the ACT Government to figure out how the legislation will be implemented. Ms Courtenay said it will be a staggered rollout, but free menstrual products will be available at schools, tertiary education institutions, TAFE providers, hospitals and community centres.

Share the Dignity’s ‘Bloody Big Survey’, with more than 125,000 respondents, revealed that many Australians are struggling to access period products, with 15 per cent of participants in the ACT answering that they were unable to afford menstrual products at some point in their life.

Almost half of the respondents – 49 per cent – said that they wore a pad or tampon for more than four hours because they didn’t have any more, and 22 per cent have had to improvise by using toilet paper or some other makeshift period product. In all, over 52,000 participants in the survey said that they sometimes, regularly or always find it difficult to buy period products due to their cost.

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But, as Ms Courtenay pointed out, “the bill is not just about access, it’s talking about educating [to remove] shame and stigma”.

Ms Orr said that the bill seeks to tackle the ongoing stigma associated with periods and the varying cultural differences and beliefs surrounding menstruation that can cause people to view it as taboo.

“Access to menstruation hygiene is vital for the community due to these cultural differences and will be available in many languages,” she said.

“Periods are a normal bodily function, yet they are still heavily stigmatised in society, making people uncomfortable talking about periods. Asking friends when you need a tampon or asking a boss for time off because of period pain are common actions often associated with nervousness because of stigma.

“It shouldn’t be this way. No one should be ostracised because they do not have access to the products, facilities and understanding they need to respond to a normal bodily function.”

Share the Dignity’s survey found that 41 per cent of respondents felt embarrassed talking about their period. Ms Courtenay said attitudes are starting to shift, but “it’ll take a generation before we remove the shame and stigma”.

She hopes that the educational aspect of the bill will help eliminate the stigma and said that schools need to educate all pupils on periods because “even if you don’t get your period, you come from someone who did”.

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This is what happens when you elect left wing nutters who majored in Womens studies.

pink little birdie11:00 am 09 Jun 23

Anyone else notice how it’s people with masculine names criticising this product?

This is a great program and provides access to a product that is necessary and usually quite expensive.
Unfortunately through a lack of education or resources and sometimes abuse women and young people can be restricted from accessing period products.

I’m a female and I don’t support the government giving away free items. It would be better for the government to remove the GST and all other taxes from all sanitary products, to make them more affordable.

It’s a joke calling them free as they absolutely are not. They are just paid for by the taxpayer.

So… where’s my “free” toilet paper, tissues, toothpaste and deodorant?

Ridiculous pandering.

Nice! Guess this is my new business venture. Getting these free, driving interstate and selling it at discounted prices!

@Sam Oak
And I’ll bet you’ve already come up with a scheme to avoid paying any tax on the profit you would make from the sales, Sam. As always it would be a win-win for you, while others pay.

Yes legally speaking it’s a charity – providing women’s sanitary products below cost of production.

Poo and snot are natural bodily functions too. Doesn’t mean we want to hear about it or that the government should be giving out free toilet paper rolls and boxes of tissues to everyone. The cost is too high. The government would be far better off removing all the taxes from female hygiene products.

John Schwazer8:10 pm 08 Jun 23

Oh how good! Can’t afford electricity, food, home repayments, rent, or whatever else – and this is only the beginning, believe you me – but who cares about any of that when we’ve got (utter) BS little token gestures like this.

Honestly, we’ve become so infantslised that we no longer notice that the politicians are screwing us royally when it comes to the real life adult concerns in life, and so continue to think that they’re worth another chance, because of free menstrual products and the like.

But you know what? If that’s what people want it, then that’s what people will get. But spare us all the whinging when all the real measures of wealth go from bad to worse.

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