'Schoolies Week' in Eastern Australia, the traditional end-of-school celebration for final year students, after some traumatic experiences, has been witnessing some more considered options for celebrations.
In Australia, the end of the academic year and the impending summer coincide with the forthcoming Christmas holidays. The air of festivities is therefore multiplied several-fold.
The background of all this, for the uninitiated, is that most youngsters stay at school for 13 years or more and (in some states) finish with a gruelling final public examination. As new adults of 'barely 18', with new driving licences, only just legally permitted to drink alcohol, they are ready to party.
These kids are like stones out of a sling-shot as they head for warm weather and good surf, and a week or so of a casual lifestyle in well-advertised places such as the Gold Coast (Surfer's Paradise) in Queensland or, more recently, Bali and other island destination.
Summer, Sun, Adventure, Holiday, Release = trouble for many?
Australian 'larrikinism' acknowledges that young people have liked to let their hair down. Over the past 20 years or so, discount air fares have become cheaper and cheaper. Along with heavy marketing of package holidays with accommodation included – sometimes directly to the schools – there are stories handed down by older siblings and friends of the good times they had at their own 'schoolies week'.
However, these are still young people, often unsupervised, who are not experienced in controlling their drinking and not at all interested in controlling their social behaviour. In many cases this is a recipe for disaster as they become a public nuisance and a danger to themselves and others.
'Toolies' too have become a huge problem. This is an Aussie-style nickname given to those who are not school leavers, but who take advantage of the entertainment provided at these venues, who are maybe just looking for cheap thrills at the expense of the inexperienced youngsters – whether it be sex, booze, drugs, or general trouble-making.
Protecting your young people
What can parents do to protect their kids? And how many new adults will listen to their parents? Traditionally, parents who could afford it arranged alternatives to group holidays. The 'Grand Tour' of Europe was once popular with wealthy Australians, usually with the youngster (perhaps with a friend in tow) under supervision of a relative or chaperone.
Today, with discount fares and tourist visas available in some other countries, the kids go off on their own, maybe with one or two friends, or maybe backpacking for a whole 'gap' year. Is it any 'safer'?
Parents can't stop them, but at least these youngsters need to plan their trip carefully, perhaps working during the previous year to save up, and they are not going just to drink and misbehave. The parents hope these kids are furthering their experiences and education.
There have always been other cheaper options for parents who are unwilling to sponsor their child attending popularised 'schoolies' activities, and who can't afford a full-blown overseas trip. It is fortunate when the parents and children have such good communication and relationships that the kids will listen to the oldies, and he thanks the Lord that his own children and nephew and nieces have done.
In our family, our eldest went to friends in Melbourne for a week of shopping; our second went to the Whitsundays with a family member; the third and fourth went to the Gold Coast on a different week (not the advertised schoolies week) with a family member. Our nephews and nieces took their old family farm vehicle, each in turn, and went camping with a few close friends.
Parents need to discuss 'Schoolies week' at the beginning of year 12, or even at the end of year 11 when other friends may be off on their own celebrations.
It might take some research and internet searching; but there will be something that satisfies everyone. Now there are Schoolies Week overseas trip programs running where as a tour group they travel to well trod overseas venues such as Peru (Inca Trail), or Europe (Great Cathedrals, Famous Art Galleries, Cultural).
Scripture Union host numerous Schoolies camps and tours for Christian young people, including a Whitsundays sailing cruise (where the youngsters have the double benefit of learning to sail).
YWAM (Youth With A Mission) and Red Frogs (protecting of young people, escorting them home safely) and others are now involved in many Schoolie Week areas. The Whitsundays Airlie Beach and Melbourne for example as just two of many examples, are heavily involved.
The Bible has much to say about parenting and honouring one's parents, for example Hebrews 12 verse 11: "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it"
Showing responsible care and family self discipline is paramount, and from our own experience, if there is mutual respect, the children will be relieved that they do not have to 'keep up with the Jones's' and just go wild. It is possible to do something that is (in the end) much more fun, that they can enjoy with their own friends or family. There are very good options available today.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at