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TAFE Queensland leads the way to address period poverty

TAFE Queensland is taking the lead to overcome period poverty to help more women access education.

Period poverty presents women with a significant obstacle to engage with education and TAFE Queensland is one of the first VET providers in Australia to offer free period care products to its students.

TAFE Queensland is partnering with the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Essity Australasia, parent company of Libra Period Products, to research the barriers to product accessibility and the impact this has on both students and staff.

Students at the Ashmore, Coomera and Southport campuses on the Gold Coast are the first TAFE Queensland students to be able to obtain one box of eight tampons and an individually wrapped pad for free.

TAFE Queensland General Manager on the Gold Coast, Karen Dickinson said the aim is to expand the Period Positivity Program across the state with dispensers installed at more than 50 TAFE Queensland campuses to improve student attendance, remove the stigma and reduce the barrier to education.

“TAFE Queensland is an essential part of the community, we provide students with the ability to obtain qualifications which lead to employment. Improving their educational outcomes is a benefit to us all,” Ms Dickinson said.

“One less barrier to their education means that our female student population (nearly 50 per cent) will not have to decide whether they come to TAFE because they cannot afford period products that month."

“It means that they can engage with their learning fully. For staff, we are helping to enhance their engagement and productivity which in turn means better quality of education and service.”

“The great thing with this initiative is Essity is providing the free period products, QUT is doing the research, and we are encouraging our students and staff to participate. Together, we can do something extraordinary and make a significant impact.”

QUT has developed a survey on the impact of periods on women’s daily lives, work and study. TAFE Queensland students are invited to participate and share their period experience.

QUT Lecturer and Researcher, Dr Ruth Knight said currently, there is very little Australian data on period poverty and the impacts it has on students. However, studies have found poor menstrual care and the taboo of discussing periods can negatively impact classroom engagement and attendance.

“Research shows that students can miss class for days if they don't have easy access to period care products and some students can feel embarrassed or anxious if they don't know where to access products when they need them,” Dr Knight said.

“TAFE Queensland is going to change its culture and this will have a really positive impact on the way anyone with periods feels when they are on one of their campuses."

“The organisation is a role model to other workplaces and training providers and is concerned about how periods are affecting students and staff and wants to know more about how to make menstrual health a normalised topic of conversation."

“TAFE Queensland recognised that real action is needed. Providing period products in bathrooms and giving women an opportunity to share their experiences are the best first steps to find out how periods affect women and if providing free period products is important to staff and students,” Dr Knight said.

The data collected by QUT will provide insights to allow TAFE Queensland to continue to customise solutions for period poverty.

Executive General Manager of Essity Australiasia, Jody Scaife, said their research revealed three in four women in Australia believe there is a stigma attached to periods. Consequently, more than half admit to hiding their period at home, at work and at school.

“More action needs to be taken to promote positive menstrual health and remove obstacles preventing women reaching their full potential. We launched the Period Positivity Program in 2020 to raise awareness and lead change through practical solutions. This partnership has the potential to deliver a best practise model, underpinned by research and industry expertise.”

“TAFE Queensland is leading the way within the TAFE and adult education sector. Their approach is refreshing. Making period care products accessible is a necessary first step and the commitment to research with QUT is creating an opportunity for us to design an insights-led program that can be implemented across the state,” said Ms Scaife.