July 6, 2020

Dignity for women in the north

Last year, Northern Hospital Epping was the first hospital in Victoria and the second in Australia to install a Share the Dignity #Pinkbox Dignity Vending Machine.

Share the Dignity created the #Pinkbox Dignity Vending Machine as the world’s first completely free vending machine that dispenses period packs for women in need. Currently, there are 160 Dignity Vending Machines installed across Australia, stocked from the generosity of the public and corporate donations. Since being installed at Northern Hospital, ours has become one of the most-used in the country, dispensing just under 500 period packs a month.

Dr Katharine See, Director of Respiratory Medicine, was instrumental in initiating the project last year and is thrilled that Northern Health has been able to assist so many women in the north.

“It’s fantastic that we’ve been able to support women of our community in this way. Particularly at a time like COVID-19, where we’re seeing increased economic strain for families and increased rates of domestic violence being reported, it’s really important that we support women through initiatives like this,” she said.

“In the first 12 months the #Pinkbox Dignity Vending Machine has dispensed over 5,800 packs so that makes it one of the busiest machines in Australia – so there’s a really significant demand,” Dr See added.

Over the last year, staff from different departments have come together to help facilitate the running of the machine, ensuring that women are always able to dispense products when needed. Respiratory Department Administration Assistant, Robyn Phelan, has taken on the role to ensure the vending machine always has adequate stock as she believes it’s really important for women to have dignity.

“It affords all women the right to have access to these products. I’m sure some of the people who can’t afford to always have them appreciate this service and I think it’s great that we can do that,” she said.

Robyn works closely with Share the Dignity to ensure we have adequate stock so the machine is always full. “I’m happy to be involved – it’s such a simple thing for us to do but I think the impact is quite big,” she said.

Support Services also play an important role, in particular Lilliana from their team, who has taken it upon herself to stock the machine every day.

“There’s a really lovely sense of ownership, contribution and commitment from all different women in the organisation to make sure that we are supporting the community,” Dr See said.

“Even just how a small action can make a really big difference. It’s a nice sense of achievement and accomplishment that, at a time where things are so difficult for so many people, we can make life just that little bit easier by doing something really simple and just showing a little bit of kindness,” Dr See added.

Share the Dignity works to rid Australia of period poverty. They run a number of different fundraising drives throughout the year and there’s many ways people in the community can get involved. Click here for more information about Share the Dignity.

Featured Image (left to right): Robyn Phelan, Respiratory Department Administration Assistant and Sonja Stamatovska, Cleaner