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Buckle up Parents, Schoolies is here

A group of Schoolies at Victor Harbor Holiday and Cabin Park
Photo – Victor Harbor Holiday and Cabin Park

A Parent’s Guide to Schoolies

Funnily enough, I’m writing this on the day of our son’s High School Graduation Dinner. Along with a myriad of other parents, my husband and I will converge at our local town hall for a celebratory evening with the graduating year of 2023. And boy, what a year it’s been.

Our firstborn, a strapping young man of 18 years, full of wit and charm, amongst other things, had a wonky year, to say the least. At times it was like a rollercoaster ride. There was screaming and yelling, tears and pleads of mercy with knuckles clenched and teeth gritted – and that was just me!

As we rolled to the end of the year 12 school year, with last-minute assignments being juggled with excuses of “Dad needs me on the chaser bin”, the forms have finally been signed. He’s done, it’s over. And by god, he better have passed!

So now the packing has begun for the weekend right of passage known as “Schoolies”.

It’s simultaneously baffled and amused me why Schoolies ended up being at Victor Harbor. What a cruel twist of fate that hundreds of teenagers swamp the town of retired baby boomers for what seems like a pumped-up steroid-filled version of “​Old People’s Home for Teenagers.”
I’d like to think there are some retired oldies out there who reminisceabout their younger years and relish the thought of having some fun-loving teenagers barrage their quiet seaside town with a bit of spunk and character. In reality, they probably lock up their house and escape the mayhem.
Cast me back five years and the thought of my little boy heading to Schoolies was stomach-churning. “I just won’t let him go,” I thought to myself “he probably won’t want to go anyway.”
I don’t know what planet younger me was on, and I clearly forgot who his parents were because OF COURSE HE WANTED TO GO.
And now I’m here, the thought of schoolies isn’t that bad. ​When you live in the country on a farm, a weekend at an organised event with police presence, a dry zone festival, support crew, and eyes and ears everywhere, it’s probably safer than any bushy or weekend away that he’s ever had.

That’s not to say things don’t go wrong. Of course, they do because teenagers are basically walking talking chimps who’ve been let out of the zoo. They function well enough to convince us that they’re doing ok, but in that noggin’, there are some synapses that aren’t firing and it’s our job as parents and adults with fully functioning grey matter to step in and guide them when they need it. There was a Gold Coast​ incident where 66 schoolies were arrested, primarily for drug-related offences​ plus a penthouse destroyed. Falling to their demise from balconies seemed to be the trend for a few years too. With the volatile schoolies scene in Victor Harbor back in 199​9, SA Police invited Encounter Youth to assist​ and began implementing positive strategies with school leaversand transformed the scene into the Schoolies celebration that’s known today. Every year,​ the Schoolies team works with key government agencies and mobilise hundreds of trained volunteers to ensure Year 12s celebrate their end-of-school achievement safely. If you’re a fellow parent or grandparent, carer or guardian who’s launching their young person into the world through the gates of schoolies at Victor Harbor, rest assured, there are a couple of things you can do to prepare yourself and your school leaver.

​Firstly, ​check out the website so you and your teen are informed about where to go, what they can do, and the support services in place if they need to seek help. Over 450 Encounter Youth Green Team Volunteers are actively involved throughout the operation so help is never far away.

Also, have a​ chat with your young person​ and encourage positive decisions, ​maybe chuck in a random threat to sell their car if they misbehave, just to keep them on their toes. ​Thankfully, the majority of Year 12 students who celebrate Schoolies make great choices, have a great time, and get home safely.

And finally, ​be grateful it’s not the 90’s. We’ll eventually find out what they got up to while we say a little thanks to the heavens that we didn’t have social media when we were 18.

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