Staying clear of wrongs in Schoolies’ rite of passage

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Gold Coast venues are attracting thousands of young people for Schoolies Week, and there are some positive aspects to this period which often has been viewed negatively.

Those like me who slipped quietly away from classrooms to further studies either at universities or other tertiary outlets or who ventured straight into the workforce often criticise this more recent aspect of growing up.

It’s become a ritual after beginning at Broadbeach in the late 1970s. Celebrations have spread to embrace destinations like beach resorts in northern NSW and along the Queensland coast up to centres like Magnetic Island, offshore from Townsville.

Further air travel also brought some movement to distant destinations like Bali and Fiji, and cruising on ocean liners attracted those with a little more money to spend before some bad behaviour curtailed that extension.

Reviewing these events, the Australian Institute of Criminology has warned: “When large groups of young people get together, there can be an atmosphere of spontaneity and reckless behaviour.”

Unfortunately, any gathering may earn this type of description and a holiday at the end of school does provide a test for aspects of responsibility, with Oblate priest Fr Paul Costello seeking to address difficulties back in 1987 by founding the support group Rosies Youth.

Regular media reports have revealed issues of excessive alcohol consumption, violent behaviour, property damage and matters affecting the sexual health of some participants.

Pressure has been mounted against what is a rite of passage for young people through a generation of comparative plenty in Australia, and it’s become a money-making industry for certain operators.

Trouble may affect some who take part this year – but, while cameras never lie, their operators concentrate on highlighting unfortunate aspects of human behaviour.

But, the vast majority of young people should enjoy a positive end to one chapter of their lives ahead of entering a new one. Many may not realise it, but there are difficult issues to face in the short term.

School years often are described as “the best days of our lives” but not all of those looking to future tertiary studies or work will necessarily grasp that sentiment this month.

They’ll likely rejoice at wrapping up aspects of the close contact by teachers and others in the school community who have overseen their development, and they’ll find only later that such caring observation has gone from their lives forever.

Moving to work also ends that special supervision and guidance beyond the home which was important in seeking likely HSC glory, and it’s possible that some will find that their first year away from school may be hard to face.

Gone will be the collective group involvement of times spent in classrooms, and the joys of sports competitions shared with fellow students when successes mattered not just on a personal level but also to others around them and to the broader school community.

That first year of freedom can test human development, and provide lessons linked to what my father considered to be important when he frequently claimed to be quoting from a speech by former Prime Minister Ben Chifley, who once said of himself: “Elevated as I am temporarily.”

Losing the contact forged through school days and the opportunities to share times good and bad is an early reminder that whatever heights may be scaled in later life the achievements will be with us for what ultimately is a limited time.

Leaving school means support networks from formative years disappear and friendships with others who had shared the same journey may break up as different directions are sought by friends who move on to search out fresh destinations.

Although failing by at least a decade to enjoy schoolies week, I did share a similar but quiet gathering with would-be mates some time prior to the end of our school days.

We enjoyed the surf and sand, and took advantage of the sun well before medical authorities were advising us to avoid such exposure. There was no sex, and liquids were mostly soft drinks – at times before dieticians began telling us also to avoid them.

It was good all round, without any news-making bad behaviour – as it should be for most school leavers this month as they create positive memories of a time of great change in their lives.