IT’S that time of year when thousands of final year school leavers flock to the Gold Coast in what has become a huge financial windfall for businesses on the tourist strip.
The event known as ‘Schoolies’ is marketed as a ‘tradition’ and ‘a rite of passage’ for Year 12 students Australia-wide.
The Catholic Leader spoke to a group of Year 12 students about this year’s event and the reasons why they would or would not be attending.
Catholic groups continue to support the event with dozens of Rosies volunteers on the streets during the week ministering where needed.
This year Rosies will be joined by a group of about 50 volunteers from Sydney called Rebeccas Community.
Rebeccas has also launched a National Schoolies Web site (www.Schoolies.org.au) to educate young people on the pitfalls they may face.
Another positive is a report by Legal Aid Queensland in February 2003 into the unfair treatment of young consumers in the rental accommodation marketplace of Schoolies Week.
But while the investigation and report from Queensland Legal Aid contains a number of recommendations for Schoolies Week marketplace reforms it is not well known and Schoolies support groups expect similar issues to continue to arise this year.
Students The Leader spoke with were keen to see cheaper accommodation available and more activity choices.
Gold Coast resident, William Nelson from St Michael’s College, Carrara, said he preferred the Coast’s atmosphere for his celebration.
‘That’s where everyone is and everyone is having a good time. I’m going to party.’
William said it would be good to have more adventure based activities as long as they were on the Coast, but dismissed peer pressure as a factor in his choice.
‘It’s decided by the person themselves, but that’s where all your friends are going to be so there is pressure to go with them.’
Erin Kelly, a student at Lourdes Hill College, Hawthorne, has chosen not to go to the Gold Coast but will instead travel north to the Whitsunday Islands with the Scripture Union’s Backflip Schoolies event.
‘I’m going to celebrate Schoolies but not at the Gold Coast, it’s way too dangerous,’ she said.
‘I don’t want to be around people who are drinking all the time and who won’t remember what they did.’
Erin said she chose Backflip after hearing about it from a friend, but then faced peer pressure because of her choice.
‘I had to fight my group to say I’m not going to the Coast, but I’m going on a trip and it’s way cool.’
Backflip participants will travel to Airlie Beach before boarding sail boats to cruise the Whitsundays.
Activities will include beach parties, hands on sailing, jet skiing, snorkelling and beach resort activities. This year’s trip costs close to $800.
‘I’m celebrating the finish of my school years and I want to remember it for the fun stuff,’ Erin said. ‘A lot of people going to the Coast will be too drunk to remember if they had a good time or not.
‘My friends are paying about the same amount for their week and look what I’m doing.’
John Black from St Michael’s College, Carrara is staying home because it’s cheaper.
‘The accommodation’s a rip off for Schoolies. All my friends are staying in hotels and stuff but it’s costing them about $400 each to share.’
Emily Williams, also from St Michael’s, said her attitude to Schoolies Week on the Gold Coast had changed since Year 11.
She said she booked a unit with friends at the end of Year 11 and since then most had pulled out leaving the booking company with a tidy windfall of $110 deposit per person.
‘You grow up a lot in one year, your friends change, circumstances change, you work out the money doesn’t exactly equal what it’s being used for and you realise it could be spent better.’
She said the attitude of some Gold Coast businesses was poor.
‘They treat us like dirt despite the fact that we are the source of income from Schoolies.
‘They discriminate against us because of our age, and all they do is criticise us and try to rip people off.’
Vanessa De Sousa, a Year 11 student from St Francis College, Crestmead, said the pressure had already started for her and her friends to go to Schoolies Week on the Gold Coast next year.
‘They (promoters) are already saying that if you don’t book now you will miss out. I want to go somewhere else but all my friends are saying the Coast is the only place to be.’
With the new Rebeccas Web site and the report from Queensland Legal Aid, students will now be able to make more informed decisions.
Rebeccas Community director, Dominic Mapstone, said his organisation’s Web site was a proactive approach.
‘Rebecca’s is providing detailed information on our Schoolies Web site, so young people are aware of their rights before they arrive at Schoolies and what to do if they believe they have been treated unfairly.’
Mr Mapstone is a social worker who previously worked for Rosies. He said the Web site also included a Schoolies survival guide developed by past Schoolies.
‘At the heart of the project is a sense that each year’s graduate class will look after the next year’s class by passing on their experiences in the ever evolving Surviving Schoolies Guide,’ he said.
He said Rebeccas Community would be breaking new ground at this year’s Gold Coast event by providing a crisis accommodation program.
‘Crisis accommodation has until now remained a significant yet unmet need during Schoolies Week.’
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
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