Free period care products like tampons and pads will now be available in all New South Wales (NSW) public schools as part of a trial to tackle period poverty across the state, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The NSW Department of Education Secretary Mark Scott said during budget estimates Wednesday that no student should miss out on their education because they cannot afford menstrual products each month. The trial, Stott said, will work to minimize menstrual shame, save families money, make school more inclusive and improve student well-being.
Scott said the experiment would provide insight into the most effective way to roll the initiative out permanently.
"We are developing work on a pilot program around this, and details will be emerging on that shortly," Scott told the Sydney Morning Herald. “We are looking to test how we could effectively roll this out.”
The issue of period poverty has been front and centre in Australia over the last few years.
In 2018, the nation made the historic decision to axe the controversial 18-year "tampon tax," with politicians voting unanimously to stop tampons and sanitary pads from being classified as non-essential items and slapped with a 10% goods and services tax.
More recently, Victoria and South Australia became the first two states to offer period products in all government schools freely.
Then, earlier this year, 23-year-old period poverty activist Isobel Marshall became the Young Australian of the Year for her work as the co-founder of social enterprise, TABOO. The organisation sells organic pads and tampons, with 100% of the profits put toward fighting period poverty in Sierra Leone and Uganda. Marshall also routinely helps provide free pads and tampons to women in her home state of South Australia.
"The natural biological function experienced by half the world's population is still a major reason for inequality," she said during her acceptance speech, according to the ABC. "Periods should not be a barrier to education. They should not cause shame, and menstrual products should be accessible and affordable. They are not a luxury or a choice."
Globally, around half a billion people are thought to live without appropriate menstrual hygiene.
In Australia, that figure sits at over 1 million.
A recent survey by South Australia's Commissioner for Children and Young People showed a quarter of students had missed class because they could not access period products, while half said they didn't know how to get products at school.