North Regional TAFE’s newly appointed Aboriginal Training Services Manager, Ulanda Gregory, is passionate about empowering Indigenous people to gain access to education.
In 2015, Ulanda was working as a student mentor as part of NR TAFE’s Young Adults Re-Engagement Program (formerly called Youth at Risk Program). After working with the students for some time, Ulanda recognised a gap in Indigenous female student attendance which was the result of students not having access to sanitary products.
“It was a huge barrier for the students to come to TAFE when they were experiencing their period. They just wouldn’t come to class. They were embarrassed, too shy or they didn’t have the money to purchase sanitary products,” Ulanda said.
To address this issue, Ulanda sought out the support of Share the Dignity, a national charity aimed at ending period poverty in Australia. Every year, Ulanda would apply to the charity who would then supply a range of donated sanitary products to be made available to the disadvantaged students.
Due to the high uptake of products, Share the Dignity approached Ulanda and suggested NR TAFE have a PinkBox Dignity Vending Machine installed in the Broome campus. Keen to see this eventuate, Ulanda initiated a business case study involving 12 months of data collection, consultation and demographic research relating to how many Aboriginal women in Broome and surrounding remote communities could potentially access and benefit from the vending machine.
After receiving approval, the vending machine was finally installed at the Broome campus in April, 2021. The Dignity Boxes can be accessed by all members of the public (not just NR TAFE students) and the vending machine is located in the female toilet block next to the Lime Leaf Café near the centre of the campus. It is as simple as pressing the button and the vending machine dispenses the box, free of charge.
NR TAFE staff refill the vending machine once a month and since it was installed, more than 300 Dignity Boxes (each containing 2 pads and 6 tampons) have been accessed. The PinkBox Vending Machine is currently on a 12 month trial at the NR TAFE Broome campus and depending on demand, it is hoped that the vending machines might also be installed at other campuses such as Pundulmurra (South Hedland) in the Pilbara.