Australian first: the vending machine changing women's lives

A PINK vending machine that dispenses personal hygiene products for free is set to provide Ipswich women with dignity, self respect and support.

Share the Dignity's Pink Box program is rolling out 10 vending machines across the state to ensure homeless women and women who have fled domestic violence have access to personal hygiene products.

At least one has been confirmed for Ipswich and is set to operational by late March.

Share the Dignity founder Rochelle Courtenay
Share the Dignity founder Rochelle Courtenay michelle.smith

Share the Dignity founder Rochelle Courtenay said the program was developed from a need for women to be able to access free sanitary items themselves.

She said it took 18 months to develop the vending machine which worked on a timer - the packs containing two pads and four tampons are distributed every 10 minutes.

"Share the Dignity was brought about when we realised homeless woman and women having fled domestic violence didn't have the basic necessities like pads and tampons," she said.

"We needed it to be on a timer so people just couldn't waste the product that was being donated. The timer component was more innovative than anything.

"If someone needs to wait in the bathroom for an hour they're going to get six packs and they probably really need them."

She said there were 26 machines needed to fill the need in Queensland and a pilot program was set to get underway at Bracken Ridge McDonald's.

A $60,000 State Government funding boost paid for the manufacturing for the first 10 machines.

"The first 10 will be going where we know we need them the most. We're putting them where we know they are the most crucial," Ms Courtenay said.

 

"We specifically chose McDonald's as the placement for the very first machine. When women are fleeing domestic violence McDonald's is normally one of the first places they will go. There is a high police presence, their bathrooms are clean. Women are using wadded up toilet paper to make their pads there anyway.

"Something else we are tyring to do is get them into the really poverty stricken schools because we know girls are not going to school because of their period. That's why we're toying where is the best place in the Ipswich area to place that machine."

The machines are labelled with links and information, including 1800 Respect, to direct women to services and support groups.

Homeless support service Rosies Ipswich branch coordinator Barry Rienecker said the group supplied toiletry packs, including sanitary items, to those who needed them but the Pink Box program was another way to offer support.

Rosies - Friends on the Street Ipswich co-ordinator Barry Rienecker.
Rosies - Friends on the Street Ipswich co-ordinator Barry Rienecker. Rob Williams

"It will be a great help especially to those people sleeping rough to pay for sanitary items and having 24 hour access will generally make life easier," Mr Rienecker said.

"It will help to make them feel like the general population and human and valued.

"Sometimes young girls are reluctant to ask for them to be able to access it themselves makes it a lot easier."

Bracken Ridge McDonald's owner Rod Chiapello said he was proud to be able to host the fist machine under the program.

"As a male I get emotional thinking about the difficulties females have in not gaining the basis of life," he said.

"Women's bodies are beautiful in this sense and they deliver life so as a community we need to make sure women have access to things that provide dignity and self respect."

Bracken Ridge McDonald's managers Brittney Dalton and Talitha Dalton with a Pink Box vending machine.
Bracken Ridge McDonald's managers Brittney Dalton and Talitha Dalton with a Pink Box vending machine. File

Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni said the program was an Australian first.

"Everyone has the right to live with dignity irrespective of the situation they may find themselves in," Mr de Brenni said.

"While we work toward longer term solutions, projects like these offer an opportunity for us to show these vulnerable members of our community that they have not been forgotten and that we are working to help them out of this situation.

"Women who need hygiene products can access them easily and discreetly, without having to feel awkward about it - they're in control of the whole process."

  • Share the Dignity collects pads and tampon donations and delivers them to homeless shelters, drought striken farming communities and refuges.
  • Items can be donated at locations in chemists and supermarkets every April and August.
  • Visit http://www.sharethedignity.com.au/ for details.


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