In an Australia first, pads and tampons will now be freely handed out in every primary, secondary, and specialist government school in the state of Victoria.
The Victorian government says the pilot program will reduce menstruation shame, make school more inclusive, and save individuals and families money. The $20.7 million AUD program will run over four years and see all schools covered by the middle of 2020.
"Victorian schools will be the first in Australia to give students free pads and tampons — because getting your period shouldn’t be a barrier to getting a great education,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said. “This will help reduce stigma and embarrassment for girls, as well as saving families hundreds of dollars.”
Schools will receive free sanitary bins under the initiative, and students will be taught how to manage their periods properly.
Pads and tampons are just as essential as toilet paper and soap.— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) September 11, 2019
So from this week, we'll start supplying them in our public schools – free of charge.
It's an Australian first. And it's the right thing to do. pic.twitter.com/ps4KHnB38c
The free pads and tampons initiative follows last year’s historic and long-campaigned decision to ax Australia’s tampon tax.
Politicians from across the country voted unanimously to end the AUD $30 million-a-year tax on sanitary products, which were previously considered a “luxury” item and taxed at 10%.
Around 3.2 million Australians, however, continue to live below the relative poverty line, and many still struggle with “period poverty” — meaning they are unable to afford menstrual products each month.
Rochelle Courtenay, founder and managing director of women’s rights organization Share the Dignity, said period poverty causes menstruating Australian students to miss school “so much more” than anyone would think. She believes 27% of Australian high school pupils have missed class due to period poverty.
“There are girls in Australia missing school because their families cannot afford the $5 packet of pads,” Courtenay told the ABC. "Periods are not a sexy subject, and not a lot of people want to talk about it. If you don't have a period, you come from someone who did. This isn't a female issue; it's a societal issue."
Victoria’s decision to provide free tampons and pads to school students follows similar initiatives in South Korea’s capital Seoul, Scotland, and US states like Boston, Massachusetts, New York, Georgia, and New Hampshire.