School graduation is a big deal for adolescents worldwide. In Australia, school leavers tend to celebrate high school graduation with a weeklong event called Schoolies. Here’s how you can prepare your child for it.
Schoolies are an Australian tradition. In late November and early December, high school graduates celebrate the end of high school during a weeklong celebration.
The most popular destination, the Gold Coast, is expecting around 18,000 school leavers this November. Other popular destinations are Airlie Beach, Byron Bay and Lorne in Australia, as well as Bali and Fiji overseas.
Alcohol and drug consumption
A 2012 survey involving over 500 young people who attended Victoria’s Schoolies in Lorne and Torquay found that attendees consumed an average of 8.8 standard drinks in a session.
Laura Bajurny from the Alcohol and Drug Foundation says keeping hydrated with water between alcoholic drinks reduces the risk of excessive alcohol consumption.
“It is the most likely drug that young people are going to encounter. But if they are offered other types of drugs, there’s no way of knowing what's actually in those drugs. It can be quite dangerous to take a substance when you don’t know what’s in it. You don’t know what the effects it’s going to have on your body,” she says. “It can be really risky to mix alcohol with other drugs, especially when it’s essentially an unknown substance.”
Safer Schoolies Response
Queensland’s Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women and the City of Gold Coast aim to create a safer environment for schoolies through the Safer Schoolies Response, chaired by local lawyer Mark Reaburn.
The group is organising alcohol-free beach parties as a safety response from 7 pm to midnight from 16 to 22 November at the Schoolies Hub. “It’s essentially a beach party for the kids, and the idea is to get them out of the rooms onto the sand dancing crazily, but having a safe and enjoyable time,” explains Reaburn.
The Safer Schoolies Response has about 1000 volunteers on standby to offer help when needed. Mauritius-born Kevin Wong has been a volunteer for 17 years:
“From what I see, it’s a very good party, especially at the end of the school year. I remember when I left school myself, we didn’t have these kinds of opportunities back home, and my friends and I, we just did something small. But if we had something like that like here, we would have definitely gone to Schoolies. And over the years, they’ve improved on what they provide, like the party, and make sure the kids are all safe.”
Daniel Donati who runs Melbourne travel agency Antipodeans offers an alternative experience with a trip to countries like Vietnam, Indonesia and Nepal, in the Schoolies Unearthed program.
“Not every young person wants to go out and get drunk with their friends. What our program does is it helps connect like-minded young people who want to do something else,” he says.
The alcohol-free trip brings around 20 young people together led by a tour leader. Donati says the program is about exploring a new culture while providing hands-on assistance to the sustainability of the local community.
Have a chat with your child
Parents can feel anxious during Schoolies as it’s often the first time their child will be unsupervised for a long period. Concerned parents can have a chat with their child before Schoolies to prepare them.
“It doesn’t have to be like a big scary sit-down conversation,” says Bajurny. “You can use examples of things you've seen in the media or maybe a TV show that you’re watching together or even just the fact that Schoolies are coming up to kick off that conversation and that it’s a good opportunity to ask questions. You know, what does your young person know about alcohol and drugs? What do they think? How would they act in a certain situation?”
Stay in touch with your child
Reaburn’s advice for school leavers is to stay in groups looking after one another, and for parents, to communicate regularly with their children.
“The most important thing is just to keep in touch with the kids and have a routine where at 7 o’clock at night or a particular time during the day, you just touch base,” he suggests.
“It’s not as though the kids are being thrown into a lion’s den, here. My two kids went to Schoolies in Surfers and I had no reservations with them going there because I know the structure and the network around it is fantastic, and really, at the end of the day, the kids have to accept responsibility for their own behaviour.”