One sailor has rallied the ship's company of one of the nation's largest bases to support Melbourne's homeless this Christmas.
On 27 November, Leading Seaman Imagery Specialist Dove Smithett of HMAS Cerberus, handed over an unusual donation to an organisation tackling what’s often considered a taboo topic. The Melbourne Period Project supports homeless women and transgender males through providing sanitary products, help and support.
Leading Seaman Smithett's mother has worked for many years to assist homeless and displaced women, which had made her aware of the innumerable challenges faced by these Australians.
"When White Ribbon Day was approaching I started thinking of things I could do to help and discovered the project; this ticked all the boxes for the things I wanted to help out with so I just had to get involved," Leading Seaman Smithett said.
Cerberus supported the project's Christmas Handbag Appeal which called out for not only sanitary items, but a Christmas gift such as a handbag, sunglasses, sunscreen, and hair brushes; luxuries that many above the poverty line take for granted.
"I wasn't sure of the response I would get given how uncomfortable the topic can be to talk about," Leading Seaman Smithett said.
"We donated over 150 handbags filled with goodies and necessary sanity items.
"I couldn't imagine being in a position where a choice would have to be made between sanitary items and feeding myself or my children."
The handbags were filled to the brim with sanitary products and small ‘luxury’ items and took two cars to transport; all enthusiastically received by Ms Natalie Cruz, Melbourne Period Project Co-Founder, and two local volunteers Ms Jude Blake and Ms Emma Schafer.
Ms Cruz described the embarrassment, pain and fear that women experience when they’re sleeping rough and their period arrives. She refelcted on a time when she was once homeless, having to use rolled up socks and pieces of clothing to get through, feeling a sense of humiliation for a natural female function out of her control.
"Receiving these donations means so much as hundreds of women and men experiencing homelessness in Melbourne will be able to get such lovely, heartfelt presents for Christmas this year when they may not get anything else," Ms Cruz said.
"We will also be able to make hundreds of Period Packs with all of the sanitary items that were donated.
"We are so incredibly grateful to Cerberus who have helped changed these people's lives."
The project does outreach work on the streets and often the homeless need to make a choice between buying sanitary products or the fare to get to a much needed job interview.
Statistics in the 2011 Census showed 9,800 women were experiencing homelessness in Victoria. The project is gaining momentum in Sydney, Brisbane, South Australia and Western Australia with launches planned and partnerships being forged.
More information about the Melbourne Period Project can be found at http://www.melbourneperiodproject.org.au.