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Big ‘bloody’ survey reveals extent of period poverty in Australia


4 August 2021 at 4:54 pm
Maggie Coggan
“We expected to see that shame and stigma surrounding periods still exists, but we couldn’t have predicted the sheer number of people who have struggled to afford period products”


Maggie Coggan | 4 August 2021 at 4:54 pm


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Big ‘bloody’ survey reveals extent of period poverty in Australia
4 August 2021 at 4:54 pm

“We expected to see that shame and stigma surrounding periods still exists, but we couldn’t have predicted the sheer number of people who have struggled to afford period products”

More than one in five Australians are using toilet paper, socks or other unsuitable alternatives to manage their periods because they can’t afford pads or tampons, a world first survey on period poverty finds. 

Commissioned by Share the Dignity, the survey found that close to half of the 125,000 respondents said they had missed at least one day of school because of their period, and 74 per cent said that when they did attend school during their period, they often found it difficult to pay attention because of lack of proper sanitary care.

Around 50 per cent of respondents also admitted to wearing a pad or tampon for more than four hours because they didn’t have enough products to get by. 

The survey is part of a larger “Period Pride” campaign by Share the Dignity, focusing on mapping missing data on period poverty in Australia to better understand the shame and stigma that still exists around getting a period. 

Alicia Millier, who suffers from endometriosis and has missed many days of school and work because of it, said she’s never felt she could be honest about why she was sick. 

“I remember waking up for work and struggling with the symptoms that came every month – nausea, exhaustion and toe-curling pain which left me bedridden and trying to breathe through the horrible cramps,” Millier said. 

“I’d call in sick for work and say it was for something else because I felt like I wouldn’t be believed.”

Millier is not alone in this shame, with 40 per cent of respondents reporting hiding anything that shows they are having their period, and 58 per cent of people saying they hated their period. 

Share the Dignity founder and managing director Rochelle Courtenay said that it was clear Australia still had a long way to go to alleviate that stigma. 

But she said what she was most surprised by was the number of everyday people struggling to access sanitary products. 

“We expected to see that shame and stigma surrounding periods still exists, but we couldn’t

have predicted the sheer number of people who have struggled to afford period products,” Courtenay told Pro Bono News. 

“Remember that the people that answered this survey aren’t people who are experiencing homelessness or extreme poverty, we’re mostly talking about everyday Australians.”

Education rethink 

While the majority of people surveyed reported getting their period at the age of 12, 196 people said they got their period under the age of 12. Courtenay said this highlighted the need for menstruation education in schools to start earlier.   

“Education around menstruation only starts for girls when they are 11 and 12… that means that we’re not doing our job as educators,” she said. 

“Schools need to be better equipped to promote menstrual health, normalise periods, and mitigate the potential negative impact on young peoples’ education.”

See a full copy of the report here. 


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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