Following the efforts of campaigners to address issues of period poverty, the State Government has introduced free sanitary products for female students who need them in all South Australian public schools from this year (2021). It follows a trial at 15 schools in 2020 to determine how students preferred to access the products. At one of the trial sites, Woodville High School, principal Anna Mirasgentis found it boosted students’ confidence and led to some seeking out the coordinator for confidential discussions.

“We found a vending machine worked well for older students but that the younger ones preferred a more discreet option involving pencil cases,” she said. Some boys collected the products for their sisters. In our multicultural school this is a vital service and is accessed on a regular basis. The non-judgemental way in which the products are distributed ensures that every student – regardless of their race, gender, language, sexuality or socioeconomic status – feels safe to access the service. It has also led to them having someone else to go to for a confidential chat. The way the program is run is not just about sanitary products, but the wellbeing of students, particularly the younger ones.”

A grant for the products will be provided to each public school, based on the number of female enrolments in Year 5 and above, to ensure that access to sanitary products is not a barrier to learning. Schools with existing partnerships with charities or local businesses will be able to continue and expand them.

Free sanitary products in schools (