Free pads and tampons will be made available in every public school across South Australia this year to ensure girls do not miss school because they cannot access sanitary items.

Key points:

  • Free pads and tampons will be made available in SA public schools this year
  • The State Government is funding the initiative in a bid to improve attendance
  • It follows a successful trial of the program in 15 schools last year

Over the next three years the State Government will spend $450,000 on the program with the funding based on the number of female students enrolled in year 5 and above.

The grants will be allocated to schools by the end of the first school term this year.

The rollout follows a successful trial of the program in 15 schools last year where girls could take pads and tampons from a basket or box in a particular bathroom or they could be handed out in a discreet bag with a code word for staff.

Education Minister John Gardner said there was an overwhelmingly positive response from the students in the trial schools.

“Meeting the needs of students for sanitary products, whether they have limited access at home or get caught out, gives students less to worry about and allows them to focus on their learning,” he said.

“We want to ensure that no girl or young woman in South Australia is missing school because they don’t have access to sanitary products.”

Step towards tackling “period poverty”

Managing director and co-founder of Taboo Sanitary Products Eloise Hall said she was “beyond proud” that the State Government had taken action to help tackle “period poverty”.

“Unfortunately period poverty is such a prominent issue in South Australia,” she said.

“It’s so great to know that the Government can see that it’s an issue to be addressed and they’ve actually made the effort.

Ms Hall and her friend Isobel Marshall founded the social enterprise Taboo and developed a brand of ethically sourced pads and tampons with profits going to disadvantaged girls and women.

She said the stigma around periods was gradually lifting.

“Four years ago it was an issue that people didn’t want to talk about, they still weren’t ready to have a discussion about menstrual healthcare and the lack of … but now it’s a conversation that people are more confidently passionate about.”

Ms Hall said she would like to see similar programs rolled out interstate.

“Period poverty exists around the country and in many other countries as well,” she said.

“We really advocate for more research to be done and more initiatives like this to be had, especially in schools because it’s really unfair that these girls are missing out on their education just because of a natural, biological process that no one can stop.”

Last month, Taboo co-founder Isobel Marshall was named the 2021 Young Australian of the Year in recognition of her work to fight period poverty abroad and menstrual stigma at home.