Edward Mandla
Mandla’s menstrual motion

Published On: 28/07/2016

A motion to provide sanitary items to staff as well as the homeless was called out as a political move but was unexpectedly carried by council.

A general sense of unease came over the City of Sydney Council chambers on Monday night, as Liberal Councillor Edward Mandla moved a motion to distribute hygiene products throughout the City.

The motion, which was seconded by Independent Angela Vithoulkas, had the aim of making tampons and menstrual pads available in all City bathrooms, to the homeless, as well as available in Council libraries and facilities for free.

The motion was amended by Councillor Jenny Green and was successfully moved.

Councillor Mandla gave a rousing speech, in which he invoked his domestic household with eight children to implore the council to introduce free sanitary pads.

He denied he was motivated by an imminent Liberal Party Council preselection, which is understood to be scheduled for Wednesday July 27, but rather by personal experience.

“My household has pads everywhere – from shoulder pads, to breast pads which I trip over, to sanitary pads.”

Councillor Mandla said that the City of Sydney should take a leadership position, by providing free and easily accessible sanitary items for all City of Sydney staff.

He said in this instance it was appropriate for government to be a leader. He said he could imagine bank executives seeing free and accessible sanitary items in all bathrooms, and could encourage them to replicate the scheme.

He critcised the City’s preliminary response, which came from the Lord Mayor’s male communication manager.

“Because toilet paper serves his needs, he doesn’t know every woman has a story.”

Clr Mandla said he had “got it wrong”.

He refuted that notion that the City already provided free and accessible sanitary items for the homeless, admitting that some agencies “might” hand out pads “here or there”.

He said that homeless people used libraries and other Council facilities and that they should be made available there as well as council pools and sporting fields.

He estimated that providing sanitary items would cost $7.74 per staff member per year.

“This is about a leadership position we could take for other large organisations across the country.”

But that was not how the Council’s CEO viewed the issue.

Chief Executive Monica Barone seemed personally offended by Clr Mandla’s motion.

She said that female staff found the idea “a bit patronising.”

She said that she kept something in her drawer, saying “it’s just what we do”, and said we certainly don’t need a notice of motion for it. She said the nearest chemist was a two minute walk away and staff were perfectly capable of managing the issue themselves.

Councillor Green moved to make the supply of tampons for the homeless, and not for the staff.

Councillor Green said she was surprised by the motion moved by Clr Mandla, as well as the “detail” it was moved in.

The motion was amended by Councillor Jenny Green and was successfully moved.

The move follows that of New York City Council, which has jurisdiction of jails and schools. She said that Clr Mandla could advocate the State Liberal Government as well as the Federal Government. She said that the Federal Government could abolish the GST on women’s sanitary products.

She said she was not willing to accept Mandla’s analysis of the cost of products as $7.75.

She said part of the issue was the publicity for preselection.

She said that the Council did already provide funds for homeless organisation that do provide women’s sanitary items.

Councillor Vithoulkas, who seconded the motion, said it was important for the government to be a leader on the issue.

Clr Vithoulkas, who has owned numerous hospitality establishments over the years, told chambers that she had continued in the tradition of her mother when it came to feminine hygiene.

She said that in every business she owned there was always what she termed a “community cupboard,” stocked with things one might need.

Councillor Vithoulkas said she provided these things “Because stuff happens and this is a part of life.”

She outlined that feminine hygiene products were a necessity and not a luxury. She said the City should lead the way.

Liberal Councillor Foster requested that Clr Green’s motion be amended, saying the amended because it was overly critical of the Federal Liberal Government.

She said that the gender pay gap was not the sole responsibility of the Liberal Government, but was something that had evolved throughout history.

Mandla’s menstrual motion

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