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Schoolies or schoolies week (also known as leavers' or leavers' week in Western Australia) 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. 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.
Since the event began to attract large enough numbers to warrant annual media attention, Schoolies week has become a familiar concept nation-wide. The media have represented the event as a period of lawlessness, loutish behaviour and unruliness. Some local residents and media have criticised the event due to binge drinking, and sexual promiscuity. Police attention is regularly required where the collective behaviour of schoolies at some locations gets out of hand, such as at Rottnest in 1986. In efforts to reduce such acts, the week-long event on Rottnest in Western Australia has, as of 2006, been reduced to three days, which itself has resulted in a fair amount of criticism from young members of the public.
In recent years, violence (notably sexual violence) has become an increased threat to the safety of attendees. Fights have broken out between schoolies from one area and another and predictable media coverage of antics, accidents, and attacks has followed. The Queensland Government has been criticised for their efforts to stage-manage the event and limit celebrations.
2009 saw one of the most troublesome Gold Coast Schoolies celebrations in history, where in one night, police arrested 30 schoolies, and the number of arrests for the entire week doubled compared to the previous year. Superintendent Jim Keogh said that during eight days of 2009 schoolies celebrations, 217 schoolies had been arrested on 244 charges, compared with 94 schoolies arrested for the same period in 2006. Charges were laid against schoolies for serious assault, drunk and disorderly conduct, drug possession and obstructing police. The incidents prompted talks of banning Schoolies week. This has led schoolies to look at safer alternatives to ensure their wellbeing.
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.
Popular schoolies (or leavers) venues are often attended by people well past school age, labelled by the media as "toolies" or "droolies". Toolies are associated with the targeting of drunk teenagers for sex, and are also frequently involved in any disturbances that take place during the celebrations. Because of this, toolies are a major topic of media scrutiny during Schoolies week. Toolies also refers to early school leavers who are in apprenticeship training but join in the Schoolies celebrations.
Another group that have some presence at Schoolies week celebrations are those known as "foolies" or "pre-schoolies". These are adolescents who have not yet left school but still partake in activities during Schoolies week. Many organised events during Schoolies week, such as concerts, only admit those who are school leavers. On the Gold Coast in particular, Schoolies are often given wristbands as a form of identification.
Schoolies week celebrations can involve large volumes of alcohol and other drugs such as tobacco, cannabis and ecstasy. Confrontations between participants can occur resulting in violent assaults. Other problems and risk associated with schoolies week include sexual health and sexual assault. In 2010, the Queensland Police made 145 arrests of school leavers on the Gold Coast, down from the 220 arrests made in 2009.
The risk of injuries increases during Schoolies week, particularly on the Gold Coast, where in 2002, the Queensland Government established a triage to treat and assess injuries and implement first aid. There have been a number of schoolies-related deaths and many violent altercations between youths. In one case death resulting from balcony fall in 2010 which has been claimed to be from planking.
Widely considered a week long alcohol binge, schoolies week is most criticised for excessive drinking and problems that flow from this. In 1995, 75% of male schoolies and 53% of female schoolies reported being drunk most or every day or night of Schoolies week. A 2010 study found that almost two-thirds of schoolies will consume more than ten drinks per night. The survey also revealed that most of the teenagers surveyed rated the experience negatively afterwards.
More recently laws have been changed at a Federal level increasing the tax on pre-mixed spirits, and at a state level in Queensland to focus on parents supplying alcohol to their children in an irresponsible way. Drink spiking has also been a significant problem.
The availability of drugs at Schoolies week has also been a problem. In 2011 25% of male schoolies and 14% of females reported being stoned most or every day or night of Schoolies week. At Gold Coast Schoolies Week in 2007, it was reported that drugs such as marijuana and ecstasy were cheaper and more widely accessible than alcohol.
Schoolies has been long known for its violence, and media reporting has often focused on schoolies violence. In the mid-1990s there were incidents where news crews handed out money for schoolies to initiate violence so they could film schoolies violence for the evening news. In 1996, the Gold Coast City Council began to increase regulation of events and spaces.
One of the most violent Schoolies was in 2002 at the Gold Coast. Police were under-resourced, as several violent clashes occurred involving groups of people every night that week. In subsequent years with police numbers significantly increased and innovative approaches developed, the violence has continued, but police have rapidly engaged and resolved violence. When the Queensland Government took over the management of Schoolies at the Gold Coast in 2003 from the Gold Coast City Council, after the most violent Schoolies week in 2002, their primary concern was public perceptions of Schoolies week.
Schoolies destinations have been more heavily-policed since, and some destinations have engaged private security guards to assist. The most significant statistic regarding violence at schoolies over the past few decades has placed the blame more so in the hands of 'toolies' than 'schoolies' themselves. Damage to hotel rooms has occurred, as well as vandalism to other private and public property.
Sexual health has been made a focus since opportunities for casual sex at schoolies week can lead to unprotected sex and the propagation of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There are also concerns about sexual activity in public places such as beaches. Increases in sexual assaults during schoolies week destinations has also been a problem. A 2010 study found that one-third of males were expecting to have sex with multiple partners.