In Australia, the week after you graduate high school is called “schoolies week.” Teenagers from all across Australia head to the Gold Coast (and other places, but everyone knows the GC is the best) for a week of underage drinking, partying, and being reckless on the beach. Schoolies has become notorious for teenagers behaving in ways they wouldn’t normally at home, and has the tagline “what happens at schoolies, stays at schoolies” (except, you know, STDs and pregnancies).
Everyone in Australia knows the risky behavior teenagers get up to at schoolies, because footage is aired every night on the news before, after, and during schoolies. In our high schools, we are taught how to keep ourselves safe at schoolies, how to avoid ‘toolies’ (the much older adults who attend schoolies and have a reputation for preying on susceptible teenagers), and never to let our friends invite someone back to the apartment if they’re drunk. Drinking is a large part of schoolies, (with some saying that if you can remember the day before you’re not doing schoolies right), and most parents choose to send their children to schoolies armed with alcohol, because they know if they don’t give it to them, they’ll just get it somewhere else. The police know that they can do nothing to stop tens of thousands of teenagers drinking underage during schoolies week, so they no longer give out fines for underage drinking — instead, for drug possession, public displays of nudity, and violence, all which are also prominent during schoolies week. Every year, schoolies results in 500 unplanned pregnancies, and last year a tragedy occurred — a girl died at schoolies.
Aside from this, schoolies is a rite of passage because it’s one final “high school” party, before entering the ‘real’ world. Kids have one last chance to spend 24/7 with their high school friends, before entering the world of work and university. It’s a chance for teenagers to grow up a little bit, when their parents aren’t around to help them make the right decisions, go grocery shopping for them, or give them a curfew. It provides teenagers with one week of freedom — what they do with that freedom, however, is up to them, and can be used wisely, or abused. It’s a chance for teenagers to spend the week swimming in the ocean, hanging out with friends, and having a week of fun.
While heading to the Gold Coast for schoolies is the majority choice amongst teenagers, some prefer to opt out of it. While many Australian parents pay for their teenagers to go to schoolies, just as many Australian parents offer their teenagers an incentive not to go. It is expensive, a lot of responsibility, and has the potential to be a week that is remembered only for the massive hangover, and the hours spent leaning over the toilet bowl. But it also has the potential to be an awesome week, that your teens remember for the great memories that don’t involve bad mistakes, or excessive amounts of alcohol.
I personally chose not to go to schoolies this week, for three reasons. Firstly, because it isn’t really my scene – I would pretty much get sick of the whole drinking aspect after one or two drinks, and I would prefer to avoid my first encounter with a hangover/ alcohol caused vomiting for as long as possible, thanks very much (basically, I’m uptight and uncool). Secondly, I can’t afford it. In lieu of schoolies, I’m choosing to go overseas by myself at the start of next year, and I can’t afford to do both. Schoolies would have set me back a few thousand dollars, so I figured I may as well just put that towards an overseas trip – something which I think I will enjoy more. Thirdly, very few of my friends went, and there was no point going if I didn’t have my friends to hang out with.
I do (to a degree) regret the decision to not go, though – I wish I had went for a night or two, simply because it’s a rite of passage.
What would you do? Would you let your teen go to schoolies?