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Chaplain says soft attitude to underage drinking at Schoolies “unacceptable”

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Questionable attitude: “Is it too much to ask people to enjoy themselves with a nice meal and a couple of glasses of good wine?”

ALCOHOL consumption by any persons under the legal age of 18 and use of illegal substances should not be accepted as normal Schoolies behaviour, a Queensland police chaplain has said.

Police chaplain Fr Paul Kelly, who supported Gold Coast police during his first Schoolies event last week, said he was stunned by the acceptance of underage drinking and drug use during this year’s Schoolies.

Drugs and alcohol remained a concern for officers, who used drug detection dogs for the duration of the first week of Schoolies, and continued using them as the celebrations continued.

Fr Kelly said anybody who provided alcohol to minors, including parents, were undermining the Queensland police’s work in supporting the “health and safety” of teenagers in alcohol-free zones.

“One thing that really strikes me is there has been an acceptance by the community that alcohol will be consumed by underage people,” Fr Kelly said.

“They spend a whole week drinking, after not being used to drinking large amounts, and it is allowed?

“I just think that needs to be questioned.

“We’ve been struggling with this problem for a long time, and I don’t know why we have to accept it.”

Fr Kelly said the abuse of alcohol in the sporting and entertainment culture might be a leading factor in how teenagers believe they could celebrate milestones.

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Schoolies debut: Police chaplain Fr Paul Kelly has concerns about underage drinking and attitudes of people who offer teens alcohol during Schoolies.

“Is it too much to ask people to enjoy themselves with a nice meal and a couple of glasses of good wine?” he said. “Why is alcohol the be all and end all, used before the entertainment, during and after?”

Gold Coast Superintendent Michelle Stenner said the Queensland Police released “positive and forthright” messaging before the commencement of Schoolies about the dangers of drugs.

Supt Stenner said most of the Schoolies had acted responsibly during their celebration week despite the number of arrests topping statistics for last year.

She said Gold Coast police were disappointed with the number of high-risk behaviours performed by Schoolies, including “balcony hopping”.

One teenager was admitted to hospital after falling several floors from a hotel balcony, telling police he was trying to retrieve an item.

A further four male teenagers were issued with infringement notices for moving between balconies on the 22nd floor of a Surfers Paradise hotel and were evicted from the premises on November 24.

“Disappointingly (there was) some high-risk behaviour by some Schoolies, and beyond belief that some of their friends were actually filming them doing this,” Supt Stenner said.

“On the whole, police were very pleased with the general behaviour of schoolies and we’d like to thank all of the school leavers who attended Schoolies in 2016.”

With thousands of teenagers from New South Wales and Victoria following Queensland school leavers for Schoolies celebrations on the Gold Coast, the event is set to continue until December 9.

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