In Eastern Australia, the traditional end-of-school celebration, is popularly called 'Schoolies Week'. In Australia, the end of the academic year and impending summer also coincide with the forthcoming Christmas holidays. The air of festivities is therefore multiplied several-fold.
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.
With summer approaching, 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.
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.
Parents, always worried sick when their school-leavers take the car anywhere or go out with their friends, are even more concerned when they read the media around this time of year, when story after story of bad behaviour and worse is reported. They read of young people collapsing because of binge drinking (on top of exhaustion due to final exams) and sometimes of criminal activity, in popular schoolies' destinations.
'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.
Gold Coast Police get run ragged at this year's Schoolies, as are police in every popular or well-marketed Schoolies location. With rampant destruction, drinking binges, serious injury and deaths, the nation is fed up.
What can parents do to protect their kids? 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'?
There have always been other cheaper options 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 my own case, our eldest went to friends in Melbourne for a week of shopping; his 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. His nephews and nieces took their old family farm vehicle, each in turn, and went camping with a few close friends.
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).
Every parent has some concerns for their school leavers who want to celebrate finishing high school. Despite what the kids might think, the parents want them to have a great time without putting themselves in danger or over-doing it to the point of spoiling the longed-for release of tension.
My wife and I weighed these issues carefully, and decided upon their own particular kind of activity for each of their four children after much discussion, and in the end they were able to come to a mutually agreeable solution. The Bible has much to say about parenting and honouring one's parents, for example Hebrews 12:11: "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"
I advise parents to show some responsibility and family discipline, although each parent will come to their own decision. He knows from experience that, 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.
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 mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html