Council abandons free period products following trial

An Adelaide council won’t continue a program providing free menstrual products following the results of a recent trial.

Jun 11, 2024, updated Jun 11, 2024
Adelaide-based Taboo's period products were used in a trial of free sanitary products by the City of Port Adelaide and Enfield. Photo: Supplied.

Adelaide-based Taboo's period products were used in a trial of free sanitary products by the City of Port Adelaide and Enfield. Photo: Supplied.

The City of Port Adelaide Enfield said it will refocus efforts to alleviate period poverty in the local community after it trialled free period products in community buildings.

Free period products were offered at 12 council buildings across the council area between July and October 2023.

The trial followed a motion for council administration to “investigate options for making ethically sourced period products available, including free and pay-it-forward options and with multi-lingual signage at council buildings”.

Products were purchased from social enterprise Taboo, a local company aiming to alleviate period poverty co-founded by 40 Under 40 alumni Eloise Hall and 2021 Young South Australian of the Year Isobel Marshall.

“Each site was provided with period products, a container to install within the bathroom facilities and multi-lingual posters containing information about the project,” a council report said.

The 11,000 period products purchased through the Commissioner for Children and Young People’s Period Grant Program were exhausted by November 2023.

These grants provide up to $5000 for community organisations and local governments to “undertake activities and projects to promote awareness and reduce the stigma associated with periods and menstruation.”

An unspecified number of additional products were sourced through a community Pay it Forward campaign, which accepted monetary or physical product donations. All supply was exhausted in January 2024.

The council received a report in May about the trial results, saying that a “lack of formal dispensers allowed large amounts of products to be taken… and may have supported wastage of products”, including “large quantities of products… being opened and flushed down toilets”.

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“A lack of data provided by the community in response to the consultation made it difficult to understand whether people most in need were accessing the products,” a council spokesperson said.

The council is now investigating different strategies such as a rebate on residents’ reusable sanitary product purchases. Similar programs operate at other Adelaide councils, with residents able to receive an up to 50 per cent rebate of the cost of reusable period products, and a maximum refund of $50. Onkaparinga Council will provide a 50 per cent rebate up to a maximum of $100.

In all council areas, only one rebate is available per household per rebate cycle and applicants must provide proof of purchase and residency.

Port Adelaide Enfield Council will hear a report on the costs and implementation of a similar program.

The council will also take part in Share the Dignity donation drives.

Share the Dignity targets menstrual inequity in Australia by distributing donated period products to women and girls in need.

The council will take donations at its libraries and civic centre, with specific details still forthcoming.

“Council has a role in supporting awareness raising around period poverty through supporting and raising awareness of other initiatives in the community,” a spokesperson said.

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