Period Poverty

Period Products and Facilities (Access) Bill 2022

Having your period is common. But periods still carry a lot of stigma, which makes people feel like they can't talk about periods freely and openly. I’m introducing new legislation that will make period products, like tampons and pads, free in the ACT and work towards removing the stigma associated with periods.

This legislation will require the ACT Government to provide period products, without prejudice and free of charge, at designated and accessible places across the ACT. The Bill also requires that information on menstrual hygiene is made available publicly.

Since releasing the exposure draft in December 2021, I have met with various stakeholders for feedback, including community groups, unions and other individuals who will benefit from this legislation. This has led to an expansion of the Bill to include mandatory access to toilets and hygiene facilities on ACTPS and Territory Funded Worksites.

Periods are a normal bodily function, yet they are still heavily stigmatised in society, resulting in people being uncomfortable to talk about periods. Asking friends when in need of a tampon or asking a boss for time off because of period pain, are common actions often associated with shame. 

No one should be ashamed of having their period. So let’s change the conversation.

What is Period Poverty?

Period poverty is the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities, and, or waste management.

How does Period Poverty effect people?

Not being able to access sanitary products and hygiene facilities leaves people feeling stressed and ashamed and will lead to their withdrawal from regular activities until their period is over. This can mean withdrawing from school classes, work, or social activities. It shouldn’t be this way, no one should be ostracised because they do not have access to the products, facilities and understanding they need to respond to a normal bodily function.

Why are periods still stigmatised?

Having your period is normal. But people still whisper to each other when they need a tampon, can feel uncomfortable asking their boss for time off because of period pain, if they aren’t getting their period, they can feel shame that they are different. Not feeling like they can talk about periods freely and openly creates that stigma and the only way we change that is to bring the conversation wide out into the public.

How can I help reduce period stigma?

The first step is to know what happens when someone has their period.  When a person has their period the lining of their uterus is shedding.  This results in a few days of bleeding; it can be quite uncomfortable and often painful. Hormones will also change making some people experience changes to their mood. The next step is to not hold it against them, don’t say someone is emotional because they have their period, hormones may change someone’s mood but that doesn’t mean the feelings they are having are invalid, don’t tease a person if they have a leak and you can see blood on their clothing, don’t minimise the pain someone might be feeling from cramps – it can be excruciating.

How will this Bill end Period Poverty in the ACT?

The Bill puts in place the requirement for the ACT Government to provide period products free of charge at designated and accessible places across the ACT. The Bill also requires that information on menstrual hygiene is made available to anyone. This way people will be able to know where they can access period products, information on menstruation and hyenine facilities if they need them and without prejudice.

Where will period products be distributed?

Examples of places designated as access areas include public schools, tertiary training centres, public libraries, and other ACT Government outlets and designated community service providers.

Can you apply to be a distributor?

Community service providers can apply to be included as a provider under the suitable places list.

Why does the bill include the need to provide information on menstruation hygiene?

As well as having access to period products it is important to look after your hygiene during your period to make sure you do not have any medical effects.

Are period products provided by governments in other jurisdictions?

Several jurisdictions have started conversations on how they best destigmatise periods and end period poverty. In Australia, Victoria and local councils have policies on provision in schools and some in other council buildings. New Zealand has a policy for provision of period products in schools. Several States in the USA have put in place policies. Scotland has passed a law the Period Products (free provision) (Scotland) Act. and Ireland has tabled a bill for consideration.

Period Poverty Survey

Along with the release of my exposure draft, I released a survey which is asking people of their experiences talking about their periods and any stigma they have faced. An important step in helping to reduce the stigma around periods, is opening the conversation for people who do and don't get their period. Anyone can participate in the survey!

If you would like to participate, you can do so here - Period Poverty Survey.