For years, Australians have been calling for the government to provide free sanitary products to schools in a bid to end period poverty, and on March 3 the NSW Department of Education announced it would be trialing a program to offer free tampons and pads to address the problem in public schools.
The department's secretary, Mark Scott, said NSW was looking to follow the actions of states such as South Australia, which is currently making pads and tampons free to ensure girls do not miss school because they cannot access sanitary items.
“We are developing work on a pilot program around this and details will be emerging on that shortly,” Scott said, per the Sydney Morning Herald. “We are looking to test how we could effectively roll this out.”
The news follows campaigning by Isobel Marshall, Young Australian of the Year, who put period poverty on the national stage, saying periods should not be a barrier to education or cause shame, and menstrual products should be accessible and affordable. Her brand, TABOO, which was co-founded with friend Eloise Hall, sells high-quality and ethically sourced pads and tampons, with all profits donated directly to One Girl, a charity that supports girls and young women in Sierra Leone and Uganda.
“The natural biological function experienced by half the world’s population is still a major reason for inequality,” Marshall said during her Young Australian of the Year acceptance speech. “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.”
Victoria was the first state to implement free sanitary products, rolling out the $20.7 million initiative in 2019, where it installed dispensing machines in every school in 2020. South Australia quickly followed suit and announced in February it would provide free sanitary products to all female students in year five and above.