Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Mystique of Schoolies Week

The Mystique of Schoolies Week

By Naoto Suzukawa
The Spirit News
December 30, 2075

Schoolies or schoolies week (also known as leavers' or leavers' week in Western Australia and coasties in the Australian Capital Territory) refers to the Australian tradition of high-school graduates (also known as "schoolies" or "leavers") having week-long holidays following the end of their final exams in late November and early December.

"Toolies" or "Droolies" refers to older revellers who participate in Schoolies week but are not high-school graduates. "Foolies" or "pre-schoolies" refers to younger adolescents, who participate in Schoolies week but have not yet graduated from high school. Schoolies week is seen as a final party with schoolmates before they head their separate ways.

Schoolies week first began on the Gold Coast, Queensland in 1979, in the week following final exams for private single sex schools. The Broadbeach Hotel was the main meeting place. Schoolies Week events began to be organised for 1980, and from then on the Gold Coast attracted schoolies from all over Australia for celebrations. Since then, the tradition has spread, and Australian high-school graduates celebrate their graduation with a week-long party at many popular tourist destinations around the country.

Schoolies week is considered by many teenagers in Australia as a cultural rite of passage. Schoolies week is seen as transitional period from youth to adulthood, marking a change of state from the imposition of school discipline to the chosen freedom to have a body which is out of control. According to the Official National Schoolies Week Website, "The most-enduring Schoolies-week tradition is the first run down the beach and dive into the ocean after school is finished forever. That plunge of freedom is the essence of freedom which Schoolies symbolises."

Queensland's Gold Coast, particularly Surfers Paradise, maintains its status as the largest single venue for this revelry, attracting tens of thousands of schoolies. The Gold Coast is viewed as a liminal space, somewhere to get away, a city of theme parks and leisure by the sea where transitions are possible. Research carried out in 2003 found schoolies boosted the Gold Coast economy by $59 million. In 2011, up to 40,000 students were expected to visit the Gold Coast.

Schoolies are also present at the Sunshine Coast; this is an alternative for the graduates who fear the negative media attention attracted on the Gold Coast. According to the Sunshine Coast Region council the Sunshine Coast had about 500 schoolies visit in 2009. The local council on the Sunshine Coast stopped providing events for schoolies in 2007.

Schoolies have similar traditions at Magnetic Island in Townsville, Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays and Port Macquarie. Byron Bay and Surfers Paradise are particularly popular amongst private school graduates. For South Australia, Victor Harbor is the location of choice, while in Victoria the Surf Coast is popular, mainly consisting of Lorne and Torquay, however Phillip Island is also quite popular for students living in the east and south of Victoria. At Victor Harbor in 2011, approximately 15,000 students were expected to celebrate. In Western Australia, Rottnest Island off Perth and the South West towns of Dunsborough and Busselton are popular destinations. Also, Western Australians often go to Bali, which is located in Indonesia, as it is a spot for parties, late nights, and cheap shopping. In Tasmania there is not an established "Schoolies" location or tradition as such. Internationally, popular schoolies destinations include Fiji and Vanuatu. In Fiji, whole islands have been dedicated to schoolie celebrations.

Official Schoolies events are drug-free and alcohol-free events held at many Schoolies destinations. They include concerts, dances and parties. For all official events, attendees are required to be a registered schoolie and present a schoolie ID on entry. This schoolie ID, which at some locations includes a photo, is given to each schoolie upon registering, which requires the presentation of a current school ID and incurs a small fee. At many destinations, the official events are held in fenced-off areas or in nightclubs to prevent the infiltration of "toolies" and to maintain crowd control. Some events are free, while others (often those held at nightclubs) incur an entry fee.

The event is supported by an all-volunteer group of Christians who are recruited into the Red Frogs network. Around 1,500 volunteers serve in 17 locations across Australia. The group aims to directly support partying school-leavers through a positive presence. This might involve walking them home, cleaning or cooking for them. The network began at the Gold Coast in 1997.