The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has provided a submission to the Inquiry into the Period Products and Facilities (Access) Bill 2022. This welcome Bill addresses period poverty and the stigma associated with periods in the ACT.
ACTCOSS is supportive of the introduction of this Bill as a means to address period poverty and the stigma associated with periods in the ACT. Ensuring reasonable access to free period products is essential and it is promising to see an emphasis being placed on provision at places of education and at ACT Government-run locations.
ACTCOSS Head of Policy Dr Gemma Killen said: “While we are happy to see that menstrual products will be provided at schools and ACT Government-run locations such as schools, we want to see support for community sector organisations to provide them too. We know that many of our member organisations are already providing period care to consumers out of their own pockets.”
Period poverty affects many people in Australia and manifests itself in ways including a lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities or appropriate waste management.
Period Pride’s recent ‘Bloody Big Survey’ [pdf] showed that 15% of respondents in the ACT have been unable to afford period products at some point in their life.
Dr Gemma Killen continued: “Resorting to using old clothes or newspaper as makeshift menstrual products can be unhygienic and stigmatising. We need to ensure that everyone who menstruates has free and ongoing access to period products as well as clean and sanitary public toilets in which to use them.
“However, reducing and preventing period poverty requires addressing poverty more broadly and ensuring that all Canberrans have access to a safety net that will maintain their dignity.
“Period poverty affects those most disadvantaged by the increasingly high costs of living in the ACT, as well as those experiencing family violence or homelessness.
“We welcome the opportunity to provide input into this Bill which promises to enhance access to period products in education settings, at shopfronts and in other spaces.”
ACTCOSS also welcomes the Bill’s intention to introduce menstrual information and education resources in public schools and at ACT Government-run locations such as libraries. This will help to reduce the social stigma related to periods that can keep people from participating in school, work or social life.
Dr Killen continued: “A person could have more than 450 periods in their lifetime. If they are spending an average of $20 a month on period products, this amounts to approximately $10,000. This is an extraordinary amount of money for someone living on income support.
“The high cost of living in the ACT compounded with the long-term financial impacts of COVID lockdowns on many people means that people are becoming increasingly vulnerable to period poverty.
“We congratulate Suzanne Orr MLA on this Bill and driving attention to these issues. We will be following debate in the Assembly closely and urge all members to consider this important legislation,” Dr Killen concluded.
ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations. Follow us @ACTCOSS on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Gemma Killen, Head of Policy, ACTCOSS, on 0404 024 193 or 02 6202 7223.