Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Schoolies Week! November 23, 2012

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schooliesSchool’s out for the VCE students of 2012 and this week is the beginning of “schoolies”.  For those who are not aware of this Aussie tradition, “schoolies” involves thousands of excited Year 12/VCE students who have just finished their final exams, travelling to selected destinations en masse for a couple of weeks of partying and celebrations.

Sadly as this post was being written news had been released of the tragic death on the Gold Coast of a 17-year-old girl falling from her balcony – most certainly every parents worst nightmare, and a shocking end for some schoolies to their celebrations.

Wikipedia has a comprehensive entry on schoolies week, including the history – did you know it actually started on the Gold Coast in QLD in 1979?  It certainly wasn’t an Australia-wide trend when I finished school in 1982, although I imagine we would have loved the idea (alas my parents probably wouldn’t have).  Wikipedia also provides further useful information:  “Toolies” refers to older revelers who participate in Schoolies week but are not high-school graduates. “Foolies” or “pre-schoolies” refers to younger adolescents, who participate in Schoolies week but have not yet graduated from high school.

There are a couple of key destinations for schoolies, including Byron Bay, the Gold Coast, and of course Bali.  My men-children were chatting with a family friend just recently, who was heading off to Byron Bay for 10 days of partying.  I commented that only one of my boys would attend schoolies in two years time, as his twin brother, set to leave school at the end of this year, won’t actually be “graduating” with all his current friends.  Oh no he assured me, he would be at “schoolies” with all his mates regardless, making him a “Clayton’s schoolie” me thinks?

I learnt during this conversation that they will need to be booking accommodation as early as mid next year for schoolies, yes that’s right, a full 18 months ahead of the end of their VCE.  The dilemma of course will be selecting the destination, agreeing who you will stay with, and I suppose hoping you are still friends by the time the holiday comes around.

I can’t help but wonder if our “tradie” man-child will have outgrown some of his school friends by then, and if he’s working full time as an apprentice not be the slightest bit interested in schoolies?  One thing is for sure, if they both want to go to any Australian destination, I will be agreeing (although I would prefer if it’s not in a high rise apartment on the GC for obvious reasons).  The alternative (mainly Bali) does not impress me due to the open trade in drugs and inherent danger, and quite frankly I would rather they weren’t over there.  Of course, as the men-children will be 18 years of age by then, I won’t be able to stop them, but the early booking might just work in our favour and I have no intention of reminding them of their impending legal age and associated rights.

As it happened, I travelled to the Gold Coast this week for business (please note NOT as a “toolie”), and was interested to hear what the locals had to say about the influx of some 18,000 reported students to the Gold Coast area.  I learned from the local news about the behaviour of some idiots – yes the media just LOVE to highlight the stupidity and drunken pranks of teenagers.  But I also learned that there is zero tolerance of bad behaviour, with evictions of schoolies if necessary from their accommodation (no second chances) and very controlled party environments.  One taxi driver (a veritable wealth of knowledge) said most of the GC residents who are anywhere near the middle of Surfers Paradise evacuate for the entire period (much like the Grand Prix in Melbourne for some residents).  He also figured the government was more than happy to entertain schoolies, as it’s a huge injection of cash for the economy (definitely “liquid” gold).  Another taxi driver said he’d had quite a few schoolies as passengers and they were just great young Aussie kids having fun.  He did also admit that he only drives his taxi during the day so no doubt he sees the best side of them!!!

I also heard quite a lot of discussion on the radio this week also about whether parents would allow their kids to go to schoolies.  Not surprisingly, there was the full spectrum of views and attitudes amongst parents, from controlling gate-keepers to trusting (naive?) parents.  With the men-children, I am probably less concerned about them going away than I would be if it was my daughter.  For some reason, I feel that girls are far more vulnerable than boys in these situations, especially if you read about some of the “toolies” preying on young girls.  I also know you can’t wrap your kids in cotton wool forever (especially once an adult) so all you can do is your best to teach them not to be too stupid in these environments.  As we know from recent news, even young footballers in their 20’s can still do very stupid things and have fatal accidents.

So what do you think of schoolies?  Did you attend celebrations when you left school?  Would you let your kids go, in Australia, or Bali? Certainly the tragic death of a young schoolie will have other parents questioning whether they should let their kids go at all, and protect their children from possible harm and even worse accidental death.  There are no winners in this situation.

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