Public schools across Victoria are the first in Australia to provide free pads and tampons to students.
The Victorian state government initiative aims to ensure all students feel comfortable managing their periods and reduce period stigma, while saving families hundreds of dollars each year.
The initiative will cost $20.7 million dollars and will include an information campaign for students about managing periods.
The pads and tampons will be freely available in school bathrooms, helping to ease any anxiety and embarrassment around menstruation for students and allowing them to focus on their studies.
Gabrielle Williams, Victoria’s Minister for Women, says sanitary items are a basic necessity and should not be treated as a luxury.
“Getting your period is a normal part of life and sanitary items are a basic necessity. We’re ensuring all girls in our public schools have access to pads and tampons when they need them, so they can focus on their studies,” she said.
The initiative was pledged by the Andrew’s government in the lead up to their re-election in 2018, with implementation beginning last year.
The Victorian government says there is evidence to suggest a lack of access to sanitary items can negatively effect student participation in school activities and sport.
“Students may not be able to concentrate in class, feel comfortable or feel confident doing physical activity, or they may miss school altogether,” a statement from the government said.
A recent study from QUT found there is a lack of data around period poverty in Australian schools, but anecdotal evidence suggests it is a real, although often hidden, issue.
Dr Ruth Knight from The Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Non-profit Studies based at QUT Business said, “We’ve been told girls use socks or rolled up toilet paper with underwear left on the floor or in bins while toilets are only accessible at certain times of the day. Unfortunately, what is a basic human right is often seen as a taboo topic.”
Victorian Minister for Education James Merlino said, “we’re proud to be providing free sanitary items in all Victorian government schools to ensure that students – regardless of their background or circumstances – can focus and participate fully in their education”.