Page 2418 - Week 07 - Thursday, 4 August 2022

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MS ORR (Yerrabi) (3.24): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

I am pleased to present this bill to the Assembly. The bill is the culmination of over a year of work, during which I have had the absolute pleasure to work on with many people, including Labor Party members, community members, not-for-profit organisations, workers and their representatives, and my Assembly colleagues.

The genesis for working to tackle period poverty came when a member of my Labor sub-branch, fellow Gungahlin resident and friend Pradeep Sornaraj, raised the issue with me in 2020. Pradeep originally hails from southern India. He told me about the severe issues that people often face in India when it comes to period poverty. These issues in India are linked to not only the general poverty that a large proportion of the population experience but also strong cultural taboo and stigma.

Several years ago, Pradeep, who was living in Ngunnawal at the time, approached the Ngunnawal street pantries as a volunteer. This led to him learning how in demand period products are through the pantry, and deciding to run a Christmas collection drive at his workplace for the Ngunnawal street pantries. Pradeep explained that he was surprised that, in a wealthy city, these issues still existed, even if not to the same extent as they might in India. The demand for period products is still present and it is growing, as noted by the good work of the Ngunnawal street pantries.

I would also like to acknowledge that Pradeep and the many people who have worked on this bill are here today to see it introduced.

Share the Dignity reports in their “bloody big survey” that 15 per cent of those who menstruate in the ACT have experienced period poverty at some point in their lives. I note that this is also reflected in the submissions that I received through the consultation on this bill. I had a number of submission from younger people who were experiencing issues with period poverty, and a number of older women wrote to me or spoke to me, explaining that this had been an issue for them when they were younger and that they did not want others to have to experience it.

In 2021 the ACT Labor conference passed a resolution changing our party platform and calling on Labor MLAs to tackle period poverty through our work here in the Assembly. I decided that legislation could be a good mechanism to take this forward, and that is what I have brought forward today.

The bill was influenced by the world-first Period Products (Free Provision) Act that was passed unanimously by the Scottish parliament in 2020. That bill mandates provision of products at public buildings in Scotland administered by local counties.

While this has been a really significant step forward, I would also like to acknowledge that there have been decades of activism by many individuals within our community, including those that I have already mentioned, to make sure that women have access to menstrual products, including fighting to have GST removed from period products and now looking at how we can make products more accessible to everyone in our community who needs them.

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