SA-BEST and Labor Opposition unite to introduce ground-breaking new laws for compulsory sanitary items dispensing machines in SA public high schools

14 May 2020

Dispensing machines containing sanitary items would be installed in public secondary schools in South Australia under ground-breaking new legislation to be introduced today in State Parliament.

SA-BEST MLC and health spokesperson, Connie Bonaros, and prominent Labor MLC, Irene Pnevmatikos, have joined forces to co-sponsor a Private Member’s Bill to be introduced today, which if successful, would culminate in an initial pilot program being undertaken at a number of selected public schools.

If the trail proved successful, the program would then be expanded to install dispensing machines across state-run high schools.

“Young girls and women - regardless of their personal and/or financial circumstances - should be able to manage their menstruation hygienically, with confidence, dignity and without stigma,” Connie said.

“Sadly, that doesn’t happen and can have an enormous impact on a young woman’s life,” she said.

“The consequences of a young impressionable woman’s inability to access everyday menstrual hygiene products that most women take for granted can have a significant and life-changing impact on her life.

“It can adversely impact their participation in a range of school activities - or they may miss school altogether.

“This can have a detrimental and adverse impact on their education, and therefore potentially the rest of their lives.

“Sanitary items should be just as available in schools as toilet paper – it’s that simple!”

Irene said: “It is totally unacceptable that any girl or young woman attending a secondary school is unable to access sanitary items in a discreet and timely manner due entirely to their financial circumstances.

“Period poverty is a significant issue for women who are unable to afford basic essentials such as pads and tampons,” she said.

“It is imperative we find ways of making menstrual hygiene products accessible to girls and women who would not otherwise have access to them - and for governments to assist in the facilitation of such access.

“We know from a recent study by the SA Commissioner for Children and Young People that an overwhelming majority of schools want the department to resource sanitary products for students.

“That is why Connie and I are co-sponsoring this very important Private Member’s Bill. This would not be possible if I did not have the support of my party and the Labor Shadow Cabinet”

The co-sponsored Bill follows the Victorian Labor Government’s world-first program to provide students in every government school in that state access to free pads and tampons.

Under Victoria’s program, sanitary items will be available free of charge in school toilets, which is hoped will help girls manage their periods with greater ease and less embarrassment and ensure they make the most from their education.

SA-BEST has been working with Share the Dignity, an incredible organisation which - along with an army of dedicated volunteers - helps provide menstrual hygiene products for underprivileged women and girls across Australia. 

It does this by installing “Period Pack” dispensing machines in schools and hospitals across Australia. 

The organisation has plans to expand the program in South Australia, however its current negotiations with the Department for Education are progressing slowly. 

Connie and Irene urged all sides of politics to support their Private Member’s Bill. 

Connie said: “A young woman getting her period should not be an impediment to receiving a wonderful education that has the potential to lay the foundations of a wonderful life and career. 

“It is a well-known fact that an inability to access pads and tampons can negatively impact on young person’s education, sporting pursuits and other activities,” she said. 

“In a society as rich as South Australia, such a circumstance is completely unacceptable.” 

Irene said: “Young women and girls in a high school environment need to know they can manage their menstruation hygienically regardless of their financial circumstances. 

“Having dispensing machines containing sanitary items installed in SA secondary schools would go a long way to tackling the issue,” she said. 

“The State Government – which has a duty of care to all students in its care – says its current policy where girls are instructed to go to the front office for a sanitary product if they haven’t got their own, is appropriate. 

“It is totally inappropriate – in many instances, young women can’t predict when their menstrual cycle will start. 

“Imagine the outcry if our public schools didn’t have toilet paper in toilets and students had to go to the front office to obtain a roll! 

“Surely the same argument applies with sanitary products.” 

Connie and Irene urged the Education Minister, John Gardner, to work with them to develop a multi-partisan program to ensure sanitary item dispensing machines were installed in all public schools.

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