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Period poverty to end in the ACT

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The ACT is the first jurisdiction in Australia to pass legislation requiring the ACT Government to provide period products free of charge at designated and accessible places across the ACT.

As part of the bill, the ACT Government will also ensure information on menstrual hygiene is publicly available thanks to the Period Products and Facilities (Access) Bill which was introduced by Suzanne Orr in  August and was passed this afternoon, Thursday 7 June, with unanimous support from the ACT Greens and Liberal party.

While a number of states are now providing free period products in schools (among them Victoria, Queensland, and the ACT) this legislation will be groundbreaking, requiring the Government to take on the responsibility to provide access to period products for anyone who needs them—eradicating period poverty and also addressing the huge social stigma associated around menstruation.

Suzanne said she was thrilled with the passage of the Bill and hoped other states and territories would follow the ACT’s lead.

“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. 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,” she said.

A key focus of the bill was to help address the stigma associated with periods in the ACT, due to varying cultural differences and beliefs towards people who menstruate.

“Periods are a normal bodily function, yet they are still heavily stigmatised in society, resulting in people being uncomfortable to talk 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,” she said.

“Canberra is rich with different cultures, which can lead to varying views on menstruation with it often being a ‘taboo’ topic. Access to menstruation hygiene is vital for the community due to these cultural differences and will be available in many languages.”

According to Share the Dignity’s Period Pride Report – ‘Bloody Big Survey’ , 15 per cent of respondents in the ACT have been unable to afford period products at some point in their life.

The survey is Australia’s largest ever survey on attitudes and experiences of periods, and was published in July 2021.

While lack of access to basic hygiene and period products is an issue we tend to associate with developing countries, where millions of girls and women are ostracised during their period and it has lifelong impacts on learning and employment opportunities, the issue also impacts a surprisingly large sector of the community in Australia.

Rochelle Courtenay, Founder and Managing Director of Share the Dignity, recognises the significance of the Bill and wanted to see other jurisdictions implement similar legislation.

“After working tirelessly to end period poverty in Australia for the last eight years, it is incredible to see this Bill, the first of its kind in Australia, be passed in the ACT. No one should have to make do with toilet paper, socks or newspaper for their period and this legislation will ensure women, girls and those who menstruate won’t have to,” she said.

“I hope to see more states and territories follow in the ACT’s footsteps so we can ensure menstrual equity for all menstruating Australians.”

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