Industrial - Honours

Free Dispense

Free Dispense is an integrated system-product solution that aims to address each of the main causes of period poverty through one of the many aspects of the overall system. The system includes a period product dispenser, an advertisement campaign, website and app, and a business case that aims to benefit and support all stakeholders. The long term goal of this system is to create a world in which this type of service would become obsolete as it will support the path to eradicating period poverty in Australia.

Free Dispense

Tackling Period Poverty in Australia

Period poverty, described as the inability to remain dignified while menstruating due to lack of education, inaccessibility of products to manage one’s period and the impact of stigmas and taboos, is an under-researched topic in Australia. Through rigorous research, it was found that 1 in 5 women experience period poverty in Australia and it has a wide range of impacts. The three main causes of period poverty are inaccessibility to products, limited awareness and education and the negative impacts of shame, stigma and taboos.

Primary research found that the Australian public does not fully grasp the extent of period poverty. The findings also indicated low levels of community education, ineffective campaigns from service providers, and pressing stigmas. Service providers were unanimous that distribution of products to people in need is the key service they offer. The research overall describes a complex issue that requires an integrated solution to address reducing each aspect of period poverty in Australia.

Free Dispense is for all menstruating people in Australia

the System

The Free Dispense system map provides a broad overview of each element of the system and how they interact with each other. The 3 main groups described in the map are the users, the shopping centres and partnered stores, and the sponsors and women’s services.

The users are gaining most benefit from the dispenser and the app/ website.

The shopping centre and partnered stores will be the platform where the free dispense system will be implemented. The shopping centre will purchase the dispenser with ongoing service fees and implement advertisements. Partnered stores will financially support the system in exchange for the dispenser showing advertisements and encoring new customers through the rewards on the dispenser.

Finally, the sponsors will donate reusable products to the system, and the women services will provide these products to the women in need. Additionally, the women services will advertise job opportunities within their network as Free Dispense aims to hire women in need to broaden its scope of impact.

The Dispenser

The dispenser is at the core of the system. It provides free products in the bathroom in a shopping centre. It dispensers regular and super pads, and tampons. The chutes do not require any electronics or mechanics to reduce blockages or issues with dispensing. The products dispensed are all organic with sustainable cardboard packaging to reduce the environmental impact of single-use products.

The screen displays advertisements for partnered stores in waiting mode and when triggered by a product being dispensed from the motion sensor in the dispensing chutes, a prize wheel shows. The prize wheel has 3 outcomes. They are a fact about period poverty, a discount code for partnered stores, and an option to write a message to accompany a donated reusable product to women in need. The goal is to capture the users and engage them in the wider system. The screen is an upcycled tablet as it provides many beneficial features and reduces the need for all new electronic components.

The dispenser also features a $2 “pay it forward” card donation point. This provides an option for users to support the system.

App and Website

The app and website are the main sources of educational resources within the system and a space for people who menstruate to create a community and safe space. The app and website provides accredited educational resources on the topics of menstruation, period poverty and women’s health, community boards, links to services, locations of the dispensers and links to sponsors. They both provide the users with the same information and interaction. The users can access all of the resources as a member or anonymously.


The advertisements were developed to increase awareness of the system and period poverty. They are located at high touchpoints around the shopping centre. There are 3 categories of advertisements as they reflect the values of Free Dispense and the causes of period poverty. The categories include period poverty facts, menstruation and education, and menstruation and sustainability. The QR codes are linked to the articles on the website that directly relates to the topic of the advertisement so the user can easily learn more.

Free Dispense aims to reduce all three causes of period poverty in Australia. The dispenser increases accessibility to products. The app, website and advertisements increases awareness and education. The cumulative impact of the system will support the reduction of shame, stigma and taboos. Overall, Free Dispense provides an integrated system-product solution to support the reduction of period poverty in Australia.

Amy Thomason

Amy Thomason hopes to use design interventions in new ways to solve problems for people. Through the use of design thinking and user-centred design she works to create new services, systems, and products to provide an impactful solution to the bigger problems people face. She has a strong interest in research which provides her with the appropriate insights needed to allow her to explore and develop the best design outcome for the user.