FNQ’s hotspots for Schoolies Week
SOCIAL media and the need to look good on Insta may finally have tamed the Schoolie.
As 21,000 school leavers begin pouring into the Gold Coast for Schoolies week today, organisers of the safety response say behaviour has changed from hard drinking to toning it down to look good over a "latte at a cafe" the next morning.
But even organisers admit while they do as much as they can to tame Schoolies in public places, they have no control over them once they return to their hotels - where critics of the annual influx say most damage is done.
As well as the traditional Gold Coast hotspot, thousands of Schoolies will descend on the Sunshine Coast, Airlie Beach and even Lake Tinaroo on the tableland west of Cairns for the end of school blow out.
This year's Queensland Schoolies will be predominantly under 18 (85 per cent) but will drop to 55 per cent in the next two years as changes to the school age filter through, offering a challenge to organisers as they find a way to handle both legal drinkers and underage kids during the same wild week.
Gold Coast Schoolies advisory group chairman Mark Raeburn was at pains to point out the organisers did not promote Schoolies or profit from it, they were simply trying to deal with the influx of potentially vulnerable young people and keep them safe.
He believed social media had changed the way schoolleavers were behaving, that they wanted to look good rather than getting wreaked as they had in the "bad old days".
"The kids are much more image conscious than they used to be," Mr Raeburn said. "Gone are the days of 'I've just skolled a bottle of scotch and look at me aren't I tough'."
He said there was no turning back the Schoolies tide so the authorities have no choice but manage it, getting the message across before kids leave the classroom to take care of themselves and their mates.
"There are 50,000 kids in Year 12 this year," he said.
"We've been in front of 40,000 of those kids."
South Eastern region Assistant Commissioner Brian Wilkins warned older revellers drawn to the Schoolies crowd that police would not accept them "prowling" on young school leavers.
"If you want to come to Surfers Paradise and play up, be assured you will be arrested," he said.
"It's not the place to come and prowl upon Schoolies.
"We will have a very strong police presence policing all the Schoolies but also all the Toolies."
Red Frogs national Schoolies coordinator Chris George said volunteers would be on the Gold Coast as well as the Sunshine Coast, Airlie Beach and Lake Tinaroo, expecting to hand out 10 tonnes of red frogs and cook 50,000 pancakes nationally for school leavers who need a hand. The Red Frogs 24-hour helpline - 1300 557 123 - goes live today. It took 10,000 calls for help or advice last Schoolies, Mr George said.
Nicky Stanfield's son Joshua is heading to the Gold Coast tomorrow to begin his schoolies week, something he has anticipated since he was in grade five.
"He's so excited for the partying with no parents around to tell them to go to bed," Ms Stanfield said. "We are a bit worried, but I think they'll be safe because it's so well organised, it really is.
"It's very well run and we've had lots of information during the year to be able to talk to Josh about."
Ms Stanfield said she told her 17-year-old he can text her throughout the week, but she doesn't want to be a buzz kill.
"I'm sure he will check in, he loves his mum," she laughed.