Schoolies Alternative

Originally published in the Gippsland Times.

By Christiane Barro

Wellington Youth Council
Wellington youth councillors back row, from left, Rhianna Woolford, Heidi Whyes, Lilleah Tracey, (front) Mary Chol Bior, Kelly Briggs, and Kaitlin Woolford. Credit: Emily Greco

The Wellington Youth Council will table a bill at the YMCA Youth Parliament calling on the Victorian Department of Education to offer a formal alternative to ‘schoolies week’.

‘Schoolies week’ refers to designated time in November when school leavers have week-long party holidays.

Schoolies week often creates headlines for the wrong reasons with violence and underage drinking marring events.

The Youth Parliament program takes place every year as an opportunity for passionate young people to raise issues important to them.

More than 20 bills first tabled at Youth Parliament have gone on to influence state legislation.

The Alternative Schoolies Program Bill aims to give Victorian school leavers the opportunity to volunteer for two weeks either in Australia or internationally after they complete their VCE.

Under the proposed scheme Year 12 students would nominate whether they are interested in taking part in an alternative program at the start of each school year.

By July a school committee would finalise the details of a volunteering trip.

Each school would be responsible for registering the trip with the Victorian State Department of Education and Training.

More than 40,000 students take part in schoolies week each year.

Wellington Youth Council team leader, Rhianna Woolford said it was important to offer students a beneficial alternative.

The Australian Drug Foundation has reported young people attending schoolies events have been exposed to cannabis, ecstasy, LSD, ice and speed.

The National Schoolies Week organisation also found 52per cent of male and 37per cent of female attendees get drunk each night of their schoolies trip.

Miss Woolford said, a lot of schoolies get drunk and take unnecessary risks, something like volunteering as an alternative provides an opportunity to help out and potentially grow and learn as a young person.

“Volunteering gives them the opportunity to give back to someone else and to people that are less fortunate.”

Team leader Kaitlin Woolford volunteered for two weeks in Cambodia at the end of her year 12.

She took part in helping re-build the walls of a home for a woman who lost her husband in a tragic work accident.

She also visited an elephant sanctuary where she helped build sand barricades for two rescued elephants.

Miss Woolford said it was a complete “wake up call”.

“I learnt to not take things for granted and to be happy with the amenities and the infrastructure . . . we have in developed countries.”

The Gippsland team is confident their bill will pass through Youth Parliament and be presented to Youth Affairs Minister Jenny Mikakos.

Team member Kelly Briggs said schoolies was no longer a “good enough” option for teenagers.

“Schoolies just give Australians a bad name all around the world.”

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