Schoolies on the Gold Coast

As the parent of a Year 12 school leaver, you play a vital role in preparing your teen for their end-of-year celebrations. Taking an active role in their lives, especially as they are experiencing a time of great change and transitioning to life after school, can encourage open communication which often influences whether your teen participates in risk taking behaviour.

Starting the conversation

We are often contacted by worried parents for advice on how to help their teens stay safe at Schoolies. Our answer is to bite the bullet and start talking about Schoolies as soon as possible so that they involve you in their plans from the start. Start the conversation early, ask questions, share important information and don't shy away from the 'awkward' topics.

It's important in these conversations that you reinforce your teen’s rights and responsibilities as well as the risks involved in being away from home. Good choices make great futures.

Starting the conversation

Where to start?

  • It’s likely your teen will have started thinking about, and planning Schoolies long before they hit Year 12, so the earlier you open Schoolies dialogue with them, the better
  • Encourage open communication with your teen – stay calm, don’t lecture, listen and avoid conflict.
  • Have the tough conversations with your teen – communicate your expectations and concerns, provide clear reasons for your decisions but don’t forget to invite and explore their opinions too
  • Ask them why you shouldn’t be worried – this will often put the onus back on them to actually think about and communicate what strategies they will put in place to keep themselves safe
  • Negotiate and set boundaries together – negotiating gives you and your teen the chance to work through different scenarios together of how to keep them safe. It also sends the message to your teen that you trust them and their ability to make good choices
  • Ask how they’re feeling about Schoolies - let them know that they can come and talk to you about it at any time.
  • Download our Schoolies checklists - resources that provide a great starting point for parents/guardians (PDF, 126 KB) parents/guardians (RTF, 250 KB) and schoolies (PDF, 126 KB) schoolies (RTF, 250 KB) to start preparing for Schoolies.
  • Sign up to receive our Safer Schoolies info for parents newsletter straight to your inbox.

And remember, it’s okay for you to communicate that you don’t want your teen to go to Schoolies. (If they are under the age of 18, it’s also okay for you to not allow them to).

A great place to start with your planning is our Schoolies Checklist for Parents.

This great resource provides handy tips, reminders and timing to take the worry out of helping your soon-to-be-schoolie prepare for a safe Schoolies.

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Staying safe

To help you actively play a part in setting your teen up for a healthy and safe Schoolies, below you will find some key areas and advice that we encourage you to discuss with your teen leading up to their end of year celebrations.

When drinking

Teens don’t need to drink alcohol to have a good time at Schoolies, and not all of them do chose to drink. It’s important to set clear rules and expectations around alcohol early on, and to also talk through strategies to help your teen feel comfortable in situations where they might feel pressured to do something they don’t want to do.

Alcohol during Schoolies

As a parent/guardian, you may think you are keeping your underage teen safe by providing them with a limited supply of alcohol but this isn’t always true. Not only can it be dangerous, it is illegal for you to supply alcohol to a minor in an unsupervised situation and you can be fined up to $10,444.

Top ten discussion points for the teen who chooses to drink alcohol at Schoolies:

  1. it is illegal to drink alcohol at Schoolies under the age of 18
  2. it’s an offence to supply alcohol to someone under the age of 18 – your teen could face fines of up to $10,444
  3. it is illegal to drink in public and to be drunk in a public place – no matter what their age. These are the laws for all of Queensland - not just during Schoolies
  4. under 18’s can’t carry alcohol in public (even if they’re holding it for a mate whilst he does up his shoe lace)
  5. it’s okay to say no – if they think they’ve had too much or don’t want to drink at all, just say no
  6. avoid mixing alcohol and medication (or any type of drug) - the side effects could be very serious
  7. take it in turns to have one sober friend every night
  8. give your body a break - just because it’s Schoolies doesn’t mean they have to drink every night (the human body is not designed to party for seven straight nights)
  9. when out and about, if they (or a friend) have had too much to drink, they can always ask a Safer Schoolies volunteer for assistance
  10. balconies can become very dangerous after drinking alcohol – stay well away from them if under the influence.

Around drugs

As a parent/guardian, drug use is often one of the biggest concerns when it comes to allowing your teen to celebrate Schoolies. The only way for your teen to stay safe around drugs at Schoolies, is to say no and not use them.

When talking to your teen about drug use at Schoolies, remind them that every time they take drugs, they are gambling with their life and their future. Schoolies is about creating great memories, not bad ones.

Top ten discussion points for the teen who chooses to take illicit drugs at Schoolies:

  1. The only way to stay safe around drugs at Schoolies is to not take them. There is no safe level of illicit drug use – taking drugs is always risky.
  2. Every time your teen takes drugs, they are gambling with their life - communicate how valuable their lives are and how you would feel if anything happened to them.
  3. No one can ever be sure of what they are taking, but more importantly, your teen can never know how their body will react - effects can vary between people or can give different results for the same person on different occasions.
  4. Don’t mix drugs including alcohol, prescription medication or caffeine
  5. Drugs and depression don’t mix – they can heighten moods and make symptoms worse
  6. Misuse of legally purchased substances (e.g. inhaling nangs), is not risk-free and can be harmful to their health
  7. It is illegal for your teen to give someone prescription drugs, other than as prescribed
  8. The possession and consumption of illicit drugs is illegal in Australia. Drug convictions can affect future employment options and the ability to travel overseas. Remind your teen that good choices make great futures.
  9. Do not drink or drive when under the influence of illicit drugs as they affect your judgement, reflexes and the ability to make good decisions.
  10. In an emergency, don’t risk it – always call Triple Zero (000). Remind your teen to never the let the fear of getting in to trouble stop them from calling Triple Zero (000). The health and safety of the patient is the main concern of emergency services.

With sex

Now for some, this can sometimes be one of the trickier or more awkward conversations to start up with your teen but nevertheless, it’s just as important to open the lines of communication about sex as it is drugs and alcohol leading up to Schoolies.

When it comes to sex, don’t assume that your teen is across it all. Discussing safe sex, consent, boundaries and respect are great ways for your teen to think about their morals and values, where they draw the line and strategies they can take to stay safe if they do chose to have sex at Schoolies.

Top ten discussion points for the teen who chooses to engage in sexual activity at Schoolies:

  1. Drugs and alcohol can affect the ability to make good decisions. Protect yourself from having sex that you might regret or were pressured into because you weren’t thinking straight.
  2. Always use condoms – they offer the best protection against sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy. Let your teen know that they can always ask one of our Safer Schoolies Volunteers (Gold Coast) for a condom if ever in need.
  3. It’s up to your teen to decide if they want to have sex - if it doesn’t feel right, they can always say no (and at any time)
  4. Sexual consent is NOT silent - it is when both people actively and verbally say YES. Only yes means yes.
  5. Consent must be ongoing and continuous – either party are allowed to change their mind at any stage of a sexual encounter
  6. Sexual consent is not transferable - to a different sexual activity, different day or different person.
  7. Consent can’t be given if someone is drunk, under the influence of drugs, asleep, unconscious or semi-conscious
  8. Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual, physical, verbal or visual behaviour that makes a person feel uncomfortable, frightened or forces them to have sexual contact against their will. It includes harassment, ‘flashing’, rape, sharing naked photos (without consent) and unwanted groping.
  9. Encourage your teen to have a voice. If they see one of their mates, acting inappropriately or being disrespectful, call it out.
  10. In the event of a sexual assault at Schoolies, your teen should call Triple Zero (000) and ask for the Ambulance Service, or talk to one of our Safer Schoolies volunteers (Gold Coast) and they will arrange support and emergency care.

Out and about

Top ten discussion points for staying safe when out and about at Schoolies:

  1. Stick together - make sure they always have a one responsible friend to hang with and if they’ve had enough for the night, make sure they don’t leave anyone behind. And if they decide to go back to someone else’s apartment, always make sure they always have a friend accompany them.
  2. Get your teen to pre-arrange a meeting point in case they get separated from their friends
  3. If your teen or friend have had too much to drink or are feeling overwhelmed, they can always ask a Safer Schoolies volunteer (Gold Coast) or head to the Chill Out Zone or one of the Recharge Zones for assistance
  4. Save their hotel address in the notes section of their phone or save it as a destination in their maps app.
  5. It might sound over the top but remind your teen to always wear shoes – it’s quite common for schoolies to encounter glass, sharp objects and burning bitumen in their travels
  6. It’s important that they keep their hands to themselves – touching or groping without consent is assault.
  7. Remind your teen that they always have a choice – be the bigger person and always walk away from fights
  8. Get your teen to download the free Emergency+ App . It helps identify their location and seek assistance in the event of an emergency.
  9. Don't let them forget to set up their Medical ID on their smartphone. Having Medical ID available from the lock screen of a phone allows quick access to vital medical information as well as details of who to contact in case of an emergency
  10. Remember to respect the local community and environment – people also work, live and holiday in Schoolies destinations.

With social media and privacy

If it didn’t happen on social media, it didn’t happen right?! With social media being such an important way for teen’s to socialise and feel connected in the modern world, it’s only natural that they may want to share their entire Schoolies experience online. Leading up to Schoolies, make time to share some tips on how your teen can keep themselves safe whilst using social media.

Top ten discussion points for staying safe with social media at Schoolies:

  1. Don’t let a photo or video ruin a future. What can start out as a bit of fun may end up being viewed by a wider audience than originally planned including family, media and even future employers.
  2. Set profiles to ‘private’ or ‘friends only’ and only accept friend requests from people you know and trust
  3. Set an agreement with friends that consent must be given by all parties before uploading and/or tagging a photos and videos
  4. Set privacy settings to allow you to review photo tags before they appear on your profile and your friends’ newsfeeds.
  5. Think before you share – would they be okay if a future employer saw the post
  6. Be a good friend and don’t share embarrassing photos of friends online. In an embarrassing situation, a real friend would help their friend, rather than photographing it
  7. Remember that you can be filmed or photographed at any time. Schoolies have been charged after their stupid behaviour was caught on camera, so be responsible and aware.
  8. Filming crimes or assaults to promote online could see your teen facing charges, heavy fines or a criminal conviction.
  9. Sending a sext to someone who does not wish to receive it is illegal. If a sext makes your teen feel uncomfortable, advise them to contact the local Police station (do not delete the images).
  10. Image-based abuse (revenge porn) is when intimate, nude or sexual images are distributed without the consent of those pictured. Image-based abuse is never okay and if your teen witnesses or is personally affected, it should be reported to either the Police or via the eSafety Commissioner website.

For more information, check out the ThinkUKnow or eSafety Commissioner websites for more information.

Relationships and wellbeing

Schoolies is often promoted as the best week of your teen’s life but this is often not the case. The human body is not designed to work without sleep, food or water so non-stop partying for seven days is unrealistic – no matter how fit and healthy your teen is.

At times, Schoolies can be overwhelming. If your teen is feeling distressed or not coping, they can head to the Emergency Treatment Centre (Gold Coast) for psychological and mental health support. Alternatively, they can call always call Triple Zero (000).

If your teen takes care of themselves and their mates, enjoy some downtime as well as the busy times, their Schoolies experience is sure to be memorable for all of the right reasons.

Top ten points to help your teen protect their relationships and wellbeing during Schoolies:

  1. Remind your teen to stay true to themselves and stick to their choices and what’s right for them. Don’t do something that they normally wouldn’t do just because their peers are doing it, and its Schoolies!
  2. Get your teen to chat with the friends they’ll be staying with about morals, values and acceptable behaviour to ensure they’re all on the same page during Schoolies.
  3. Value and protect their friendships - real friends should be respectful that everyone has different ideas on how they wish to celebrate
  4. Don’t make one wrong choice now that could possibly ruin a future
  5. The human body is not designed to party with no sleep for seven days straight. If a friend needs a night off partying, encourage your teen to be a good friend and stay in with them.
  6. Discuss expectations around Schoolies and explain that it’s completely normal that they may feel emotional highs and lows, and that it’s okay to not feel okay. Remind them to communicate with the people around them, and that there is always help available.
  7. If your teen is taking any form of prescription medication:
    1. ensure they visit their GP to discuss the effects of mixing their medication with drugs and alcohol
    2. make sure they let their friends know about the type of medication
    3. make sure they’re friends know who they should contact in the event of an emergency
    4. get them to set reminders in their phone to take their medication
  8. Suggest your teen opens up to their friends about any existing mental health issues and how they’re feeling leading up to Schoolies – their friends may also be feeling similar
  9. Get your teen to connect with a trusted adult - whether it be an aunty, family friend, teacher or parent. Touch base with them before Schoolies to let them know they’re their chosen person to contact during Schoolies if they need someone to talk to.
  10. Make sure your teen knows that they can call at any time of the day if they’re in trouble and that you’ll be there to help them.

Accommodation

You may think that the safest place for your teen to hang out during Schoolies is in their accommodation but often, it can be the place where risk taking behaviour is at its highest. It may seem like common sense but we encourage you to take the time to discuss with your teen key tips to keeping them safe in their accommodation.

Top ten points to help keep your teen safe in their accommodation:

  1. Make sure your teen reads their accommodation house rules before they head to Schoolies – outlines acceptable behaviour and rules that must be abided by during their stay including whether they are allowed visitors back to their apartment and some even list whether they can bring in glass to the apartment (yes, including jars of jam and spaghetti sauce).
  2. Take care on balconies, especially if under the influence – your teen faces eviction, being charged by the police or more importantly, endangering their life if they behave irresponsibly on balconies
  3. Overcrowding of lifts can result in entrapment and your teen could face serious health risks or be evicted. Remind your teen to pay attention to displayed load limits and wait for the next one if it’s full.
  4. Be respectful that permanent residents and other holiday makers may also be staying in the same accommodation – think about noise especially when coming home from the Schoolies Hub
  5. Discuss being wary of who your teen and friends invite back to their accommodation – always check with roommates before extending any invitations.
  6. Keep valuables locked in accommodation safe or don’t take to Schoolies in the first place.
  7. Inspect accommodation carefully upon arrival – take photos of any existing damage and report immediately so that they can't be blamed for it later.
  8. Make sure your teen catches up with their mates about each other’s expectations for the week – including what behaviour is acceptable and their thoughts on visitors, partying and responsibilities within the accommodation.
  9. It’s a good idea for everyone's financial contribution to be paid before Schoolies - including food, accommodation and bond costs.
  10. The streets can look very different in the dark so suggest your teen drops a pin in Google or saves their accommodation address in their phone.

During Schoolies

Your teen may have zero expectations of staying in contact with you whilst their away at Schoolies but we encourage parents / guardians to stay in touch with their teens during their time away.

  • Before your teen heads off to Schoolies, lock in a communication plan with them e.g. they will message you at 10am every day or you will call at 3pm every afternoon etc
  • By day three and four, your teen may be overtired, be running out of money or over Schoolies entirely. This is a very important time for parents to check in with their teen especially if they have pre-existing mental health concerns. It’s a great time to see if your teen would like you to drop off a home cooked meal (if they are staying local), need any washing done or would even like to come home for a night.
  • Remind your teen of their chosen trusted adult and to call them at any time if they need someone to talk to
  • Make sure that your teen knows that they can call you at any time and that you will be there to help them or their friends
  • Get the contact details for the friends your teen is staying with, and their parents. It’s also a good idea to make sure that your teen’s friends have your contact details and that they know they can contact you in the event of an emergency.
  • Follow our Safer Schoolies for Parents Facebook page for updates and the latest information during Schoolies on the Gold Coast

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Support on the Gold Coast

As Schoolies gets closer, you might be feeling conflicted about letting your teen head off to Schoolies. On one hand, you want them to celebrate their achievements and know that you trust them as they head off for their well-deserved break. On the other hand, you want to keep them safe and away from high-risk situations. Every year, we put on the Safer Schoolies Gold Coast Response to ensure the holiday period is as safe as possible for school leavers, local residents, businesses and the community in general. In 2019, the Safer Schoolies Gold Coast Response will be activated from Saturday 16 – Friday 22 November.

Our seven night safety response is not an event or festival to attract school leavers. It is a whole of government response that provides a nightly program of free diversionary activities which aim to deter school leavers from high risk behaviour and engage them in an alcohol and drug free, schoolies-only, area.

There is always someone to help

To help keep your teen as safe as possible, a range of FREE support is provided for schoolies holidaying on the Gold Coast during Saturday 16 – Friday 22 November 2019.

Whether they need a friend to talk to, someone to walk them home, an in-room pancake cook up or first aid, know that there will always be someone available to help them - without judgement.

  • Safer Schoolies Volunteers – whether they need a walk home, are feeling unwell, have a friend who has drunk too much or just need a friendly face to talk to, a team of volunteers (wearing the bright orange vests) will always be available to help. The Safer Schoolies Volunteers walk the streets of Surfers Paradise from 6pm nightly.
  • Recharge Zones – head to a Recharge Zone for free water, a quiet place to regroup, or support of any kind including medical attention without judgement. Two Recharge Zone tents can be found within the Schoolies Hub (right near each stage) and one outside the Schoolies Hub entry on the Esplanade.
  • Emergency Treatment Centre – head here for free treatment for medical emergencies or any mental health concerns. Located on the Esplanade and open from 7pm nightly.
  • Chill Out Zone – providing a safe and supervised chill out space for those who are drug or alcohol affected, offering free water, first aid and general support. The Chill Out Zone van can be found in the nightclub precinct on Orchid Avenue, from 9pm nightly.
  • Red Frogs – whether they need help mediating a problem with roommates, a walk home back to their accommodation or would simply love an in-room pancake cook up for them and their mates, Red Frogs Australia are the people for the job. Get your teen to call the Red Frogs hotline on 1300 557 123 (available 24 hours a day) or download the Red Frogs Schoolies app. Please note: this is not an emergency hotline - Schoolies requiring emergency assistance should always call Triple Zero (000).

The Safer Schoolies Gold Coast Response is activated during the peak Schoolies period – the week that follows is sometimes referred to as ‘Week 2’. If your teen is visiting the Gold Coast after Friday 22 November 2019, make sure you check out our section on ‘Week 2’ for information on what support is available.

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Rights and responsibilities

Regardless of where your teen is choosing to celebrate Schoolies, it’s important that they are aware of the laws surrounding alcohol, drugs and responsible behaviour may be different in each state or country.

When talking about rights and responsibilities with your teen, we suggest reminding them that one poor choice at Schoolies can drastically affect their entire future. Having a criminal record can remove opportunities such as getting a job or being allowed to travel to other countries.

Top rights and responsibilities to cover before Schoolies:

In Queensland:

  • You must be over the age of 18 to enter a licensed venue or purchase alcohol
  • Supplying alcohol to underage friends could see your teen facing a fine of $10,444* (per friend supplied)
  • Drinking in a public place is against the law, regardless of your age - $130* fine
  • Underage drinking or possession of liquor in a public place, even if holding a drink for your friend whilst they tie their shoelace – $391* fine
  • It is illegal to drive under the influence of drugs. Police often do roadside testing for both alcohol and drugs during Schoolies.
  • Possessing or supplying others will illegal drugs is a serious criminal offence
  • Possessing an implement (e.g. bong, cannabis pipe, needle) that is used for smoking or taking illegal drugs is an offence
  • It is illegal for you to give someone prescription drugs, other than as prescribed
  • Selling or supplying tobacco to someone under the age of 18 years of age is illegal
  • Don't fake it! It's illegal to use someone else's ID or make a fake ID:
    • if you use a friend's ID you may be fined $391* on the spot.
    • if you lend your ID to a friend you may be fined up to $652* and the ID may be confiscated on the spot.

*Fines are correct at the time of publishing.

Parents – you may think you are protecting your teen if you buy them alcohol for Schoolies.

If your teen is under the age of 18 and you are leaving them unsupervised, you could be fined up to $10,444 for supplying alcohol to a minor.

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