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New Plan For Free Tampons In Schools Praised As 'Essential' Reform

Young women will now have free access to pads and tampons in every primary, secondary and specialist government school across the state, as part of an 'Australian first' initiative launching in Victoria.

The $20.7 million investment was an election promise from the Andrews government in May last year, aimed to make schools more inclusive for girls and young women, and save money for families.

The initiative will see sanitary items available free of charge in school toilets, allowing students to access pads and tampons when they need them. It's hoped they will help relieve anxiety and embarrassment..

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Embarrassment and anxiety stemming from periods see young women unable to concentrate in class, feel uncomfortable and lose confidence in physical activity.

"Pads and tampons are just as essential as toilet paper and soap," Premier Daniel Andrews said on Twitter on Wednesday.

"It's an Australian first. And it's the right thing to do."

Minister for Women and Youth, Gabrielle Williams, said the initiative would help reduce stigma and make it easier for girls at school.

“While getting your period is a normal part of life, for some young girls it can be a source of anxiety or embarrassment," she said.

The move has been welcomed by advocacy groups who are now calling for other state governments across the nation to introduce similar initiatives.

Casimira Melican, research and advocacy officer at Victorian Women's Trust, praised the Andrews government and said it opened opportunities for girls to "live their life and do what they want to do".

Image: Getty

"We think it's a really good thing, especially considering period poverty is such a big thing as well as absenteeism from girls... because they can't do sport and they feel too embarrassed," Melican told 10 daily.

She added that expanding the initiative to tackle access for homeless people across the country would also be welcomed.

"It's a really crucial issue... It's a health issue and it's just about dignity," Melican said.

READ MORE: The Shocking Ways Homeless Women Deal With Their Period

She said introducing the issue for primary school-aged girls was particularly important because it was not openly addressed.

"It's really stigmatised and young girls under 12 probably need more support than older girls," Melican said.

"To make sure they are creating good habits with their sanitary product use and making sure they're not putting themselves in danger of toxic shock and other things like that because they don't know how to use their products or they don't know how to ask for a product if they do need a fresh one."

Image: Getty Images.

In conjunction with the initiative, the Andrews government also promised to provide students with health information on how to manage their periods.

Melican suggested that boys and young men could be involved in that conversation.

"They can be really great allies to girls and women and anyone who is menstruating," she said.

"If that is introduced to them quite early in a school environment that can normalise periods and leave them more empowered to help and reduces the chances they might bully girls or seek to embarrass girls for something that is really normal."

Photo: Getty Images

Global advocacy group Plan International Australia also welcomed the initiative and encouraged other governments to take the same steps.

"Victoria is leading the way in a lot of senses here," said manager of campaigns and community, Holly Crocket.

She said it was important to equip men with the knowledge of how necessary a period is in life and for women to have babies, meaning it will also impact men in their future if they decide to have children.

"It happens to every second person on the planet so it's not something strange or unusual," Crocket said.

She said it was important to address the issue from a hygiene and health point of view.

"We have a sad state of affairs in Australia where young people are rationing their pads and tampons."

"Having it in schools is  a great step for girls that might feel embarrassed that they can't afford to buy the necessities they need."

Photo: Getty

The UK and some states in the U.S. have similar initiatives in local schools.

"These are the only places in the world that provide free pads and tampons in schools. And you live in one of them," Andrews said.

Contact the author: vgerova@networkten.com.au