The Big-Old, Worn-Out, Over-Analysed Schoolies Debate

I live on the Gold Coast. And it’s schoolies week. I know, RUN FOR THE HILLS! By now you’ve probably read about the 17 year old girl who fell to her death at one of the hotels in Surfers. This is the second year in a row someone has fallen to their death during schoolies, though last year it was a non-school leaver hanging out in Surfers Paradise. The fact is, every year thousands of teenagers congregate on Gold Coast beaches, in Gold Coast hotels, in Gold Coast nightspots and they drink too much, party too hard, and get into all kinds of trouble. So they say. And every year the discussion to cancel schoolies is re-visited. I can argue both sides of this, so I will!

Pro-Schoolies (the 34 year old wishing she was still 18 year old me)

Schoolies is a rite of passage. A chance for school leavers to celebrate accomplishments, relax, unwind, let their hair down before they launch into university/work/whatever awaits them post-high school.

I went to schoolies on the Gold Coast in ’95 (showing my age now). The worst thing we got up to was under-age drinking and kissing way too many boys we didn’t even know the names of. I ended up with glandular fever after 3 nights and went home early. I don’t remember knowing anyone who got in any kind of trouble, any kind of danger, or had any kind of accident. I know times are very different now, but I still believe that most people at schoolies won’t get in too much trouble. But you hear of one incident and everyone is quick to want to shut things down. I’m not trying to minimize what that one incident was. It was tragic. And every parent around the country, kissing their son or daughter as they head off for schoolies fun, will be thinking, praying, “Please don’t let it happen to us.”

Outside of this incident, police are reporting lower numbers of arrests than in the past. Schoolies are more aware of the dangers, are more inclined to look out for each other and have each others backs. There’s better organization, police and medical presence than ever before. And while tragically one young life has ended way too soon, tens of thousands of young adults have managed to have a good time without doing significant harm to themselves or others.

Kids have a lot of stress in school and deserve to let their hair down. Just because a handful of teens are irresponsible and drunk and disorderly, doesn’t mean they all are.

Anti-Schoolies (the 34 year old going on 84 year old me)

Another year, another tragedy. When will school-leavers learn that you don’t have to drink to have fun, and schoolies isn’t an excuse to congregate, get drunk and do stupid things? How long will we allow teenagers to behave like this before we say, “Enough is enough?” How many more lives have to be lost before someone puts an end to schoolies week?

There are photos of people scaling balconies, laying on window ledges, and not to mention the young girl who fell to her death.

Schoolies in my day was quite tame. Now we read about kids traveling to Hawaii, Bali, Thailand and other places to celebrate finishing school. What parent in their right mind would let their child go to Bali for schoolies? Do they not watch the news? Teens today think they’re entitled to all this time off after school – schoolies week, gap years, what happened to getting jobs or going to university. There’s plenty of holidays throughout the school year for unwinding.

Graduating high school makes you no more of an “adult” than getting your license does. We think 17 and 18 year olds are mature enough to go on week-long holidays with their mates, and maybe a lot of them are. But certainly most of them are not. We shouldn’t be excited because there were “only” 20 arrests one night of schoolies. We can’t be satisfied with there being “only” 1 death. It’s 1 death too many, and it could happen to any one of the 18,000 kids (because yes, many of them are still acting just like kids) on the coast. Personally I’d rather take my son to Europe (with us) as a reward for graduating high school than let him run amok in Surfers with his mates for a week (however, my son is 4. I may change my mind if he and his mates seem a bit more responsible come 18. Let’s hope they are!).


I’m clearly torn on the issue. I don’t think cancelling schoolies is the answer. The better the organization and supervision the less chance of something terrible happening, I think. It’s up to parents to raise their kids right, not be naive, to trust your kids a bit, and let them know they can call you at any time if they do get into trouble. Or give them an alternative, like an awesome trip away with you! The parents might find this more awesome than the kids, though.

Did you go to schoolies? Do you think it should be cancelled or kept?


4 thoughts on “The Big-Old, Worn-Out, Over-Analysed Schoolies Debate

  1. I’m with you in being undecided. I’m inclined to think it can’t be stopped and any kind of ban will just see it move or occur more covertly. I kind of throw schoolies in the same category as irresponsible P-platers. It doesn’t matter how many times they’re told, they all think nothing bad will happen to them. I don’t know how you get around it other than to try and monitor it and makes it as safe as possible.

  2. As a resident of the GC I think it’s been better since we moved home from the UK – before we left (early 04) schoolies was more spread out but nowdays they don’t seem to rent to schoolies groups anywhere but Surfers or Coolangatta so I barely notice it’s on, if it wasn’t for the continuous horrifying news stories I wouldn’t know at all.

    I don’t remember being as bloody stupid as the schoolies seem to be these days, hell I don’t remember being as stupid as teenagers seem to be in general these days. It seems that they’re more immature but demand more privileges than we had. Some of them shouldn’t even be allowed out let alone to take a holiday on their own. I know, I sound like a crotchety old lady but the whole thing just annoys me. Plus I think having groups of drunken young girls is just screaming for predators to hang around. I didn’t do schoolies but as a 19 year old clubbing I was slipped a mickey during schoolies week and luckily the bouncers at Melbas noticed and got me home safely. I doubt things have changed all that much.

    I’m totally with you on the Europe travelling rather than letting them go to schoolies, I think if kids are going to do anything after high school they should have a gap year like they do in the UK – SAVE up your money, go travelling on a working holiday and gain some life experience rather than just blow a heap of money on getting drunk and high in Surfers.

    • I completely agree about the stupid ones! I’ve talked to a couple of school leavers in the last few days and they said they went in and it was lame. I hope I raise my son to think the same thing!

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