Free pads and tampons will be offered to WA public school students in years 7 to 12 to ensure girls are not skipping class because they cannot afford sanitary products.
- More than 220 public schools will be provided with free period products
- The WA government says it hopes improving accessibility will keep students engaged in school
- The initiative has not yet been costed and will go to tender in October
WA is the last state in Australia to offer free period products in schools, with the program set to roll out in the first term of next year.
“It’s about bloody time we’ve done this in schools,” Women’s Interests Minister Simone McGurk said.
“For too long, girls and young women have felt embarrassed [and] they often haven’t had access to the products they’ve needed.”
The state government says 225 public schools will be provided with the free products, but it has not yet determined how much the program will cost.
A ‘very big’ expense
The state government is also yet to work out how students will access the products.
Mt Lawley Senior High School student Daisy Edwards said she would prefer a dispensing machine for privacy and convenience.
“Then it still means that [students are] controlling it themselves, and they can get what they need instead of having to go and ask,” she said.
Daisy said the cost of period products was a “very big expense” in her house, which she shares with three older sisters.
“I’m very excited that this is happening … it just means that you have it there, and it’s that extra support and comfort … at school,” she said.
Education Minister Sue Ellery said the government would consider how the initiative has been rolled out around the country before making a decision.
“There are a range of options that are in place in other states, we’ll look at those,” she said.
The program will go to tender in October to find a provider.
WA last to ease ‘period poverty’
The WA government’s commitment comes after a sweeping movement across Australian public schools to ease what is known as ‘period poverty’, where women and girls cannot afford sanitary products.
In 2020, Victoria became the first jurisdiction in the country to provide access to period products in public schools.
South Australia, the Northern Territory, and Tasmania followed suit in 2021.
New South Wales and Queensland public schools began providing free menstrual hygiene products this year following successful trials.
And in the Australian Capital Territory, where free sanitary products are already available in public schools, a bill has been introduced which – if passed – would provide free pads and tampons to anyone who needs them.
Ms McGurk defended WA lagging behind the rest of the country, saying there was an ever-increasing demand on public funds.
“There’s always demand for government to do more and to provide more free services,” she said.