Melbourne City Council has agreed to invest in a year-long scheme to combat period poverty throughout the metropolitan area, with pads and tampons to be made freely available in at least six community spaces, including bathrooms, pools and libraries.
A broader and more fixed program is expected to follow.
Councillor Jamal Hakim, who brought the motion to council, said the $10,000 a year required to run the program is an incredibly small fee to pay for an initiative that will have a “profound impact for women, girls and people who menstruate.”
"Period poverty is the term used to describe the inability to purchase sanitary products. It is real and a significant obstacle to health, comfort and ability to take part in basic activities that so many of us take for granted,” Hakim told councillors during a Future Melbourne Committee meeting.
Hakim continued: “The fact is we know that there are people in Australia today who use socks, or newspapers, or rolled up toilet paper. That is not acceptable. Menstruation in and of itself is also stigmatised. Not only is it important to combat period poverty, it is important that we have conversations about period poverty, about menstruation, as well as about menstruation management.”
We commend this fantastic initiative from the @cityofmelbourne, which will see free #pads & #tampons in various public areas in #Melbourne. Read more below. For more info on #periods > https://t.co/YpRgruHnl7. @LordMayorMelb@thejamalhakim@WomensAgendahttps://t.co/qKFPG0goMy— Jean Hailes (@JeanHailes) April 26, 2021
When asked if there were any other speakers to the motion, Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece raised his hand.
"Let’s face it, if blokes had periods, we would have done this decades ago,” he said.
The motion was then approved unanimously.
As part of the initiative, the city will partner with relevant organisations, including Share the Dignity, and establish a communication plan to effectively reach those throughout the community who would benefit from the program.
According to a Reducing Period Poverty in Australia 2020 report, cited in the motion, period poverty is a particularly complex issue that requires a multi-faceted approach encompassing education, access to products, reducing stigma, providing practical resources such as toilets and political and cultural support.
"Missing school due to the inability to afford sanitary products can severely hamper girls’ educational achievement as well as their productivity in school,” the report states. “With education attainment being an important predictor of future employment, welfare and health prospects, reducing period poverty is clearly an important issue for policymakers, education and community service providers to address.”
Melbourne’s commitment follows a similar decision by the Victorian government to offer free period products to students in all public schools, which began rolling out in 2019.
The 10% tax on sanitary products was abolished nationwide the same year.
Correction: A previous version of this story misattributed a quote to former Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood. It has been corrected to current Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece. We regret the error.