Doing good instead of bingeing is all class: MTR in Sunday Herald Sun
Scarlett* (she asked me not to use her real name) from Victoria, wrote to me about her experience of Schoolies.
While on schoolies I heard numerous stories of girls I go to school with having sex in club toilets with complete strangers before schoolies to ‘get it over and done with’… They feared that if they went on schoolies as virgins, they would be deemed ‘losers’…
While on schoolies, some of my closest friends had sex or gave oral sex or hand to complete strangers as they felt it was ‘expected of them’ by the boys and because ‘it’s schoolies!’.
At clubs and bars we went to boys chanted ‘tits out for the boys’… If boys came up to the girls and chanted ‘show us your tits!’ the girls would take their tops off or show their bra, because a massive group of horny boys chanting at you is pretty forceful.
…There was also a wet-shirt competition, prizes for lesbian kisses and games which included miming a blow job. They had to take off items of clothing to stay in the game…
Many of the girls were under the influence of alcohol and yes, boys did prey on drunk girls – I overheard two boys saying to each other ‘let’s get these girls drunk and take them down to the beach’.
Courtney Mitchell, 18, wrote to me too. Her experience was quite different.
Two weeks ago I had the privilege of joining a team on a short term trip to Thailand and Cambodia with Destiny Rescue. We spent time with poor and disadvantaged children and young people and saw how life is for those much less fortunate than ourselves.
My team had chosen to spend their schoolies giving instead of getting. It was inspiring to see them exchange a week of partying to spend an afternoon levelling out a soccer field so orphaned boys could play safely or playing with little girls rescued from the sex industry.
It was touching to think that money had been diligently raised all year not to hire a three-bedroom apartment and cover alcohol costs but to fly to the other side of the world with a willingness to get uncomfortable.
What better way to start life in the real world than by visiting the real world – and gaining awareness, preparation and perspective as a result?
If ever there was a case for re-considering the traditional schoolies ritual, it’s here in the stories of these two young women.
This so-called rite-of-passage – more like a week-long binge – sees hundreds arrested for serious assault, drunk and disorderly conduct, drug possession and obstructing police. Scarce resources are deployed to mop up the mess.
Many girls suffer sexual violence. Some families are left grieving the loss of a child who died at a schoolies event.
Of course young people should be able to let off steam, have fun and say farewell after being together with the same people for over a decade. We want them to revel in freedom and new beginnings.
But has the good wish to prove and redefine oneself, to grow and move on, turned into an empty, hollow and even toxic initiation?
It appears that young people themselves think so.
In fact most wish they’d never gone. University of Wollongong research found seven out of 10 of teens attending rated the experience as negative.
Why can’t we offer them something better? Provide incentives to participate in something affirming and positive, which won’t leave them with sadness and regret?
Fortunately there are a number of alternatives already on offer which deserve more publicity so that next time girls like Scarlett will have healthy options. Here’s a sample (check in your area for other programs).
• Schoolies Revolution
An initiative of HopeBuilders International, this not-for-profit work to break the cycle of poverty. It “challenges young people to step out of their comfort zone and do something radical. By turning away from the traditional “schoolies” young people are given the opportunity to give back to world’s poor”. This year students helped build a school, visited slums, visited prisons and looked after orphans in Uganda.
• Operation Timor-Leste (Rotary Club of Kerang)
Kalamunda schools (W.A) join a team to engage in community building activities in a small East Timorese village. The aim is to help young people think and act as global citizens, develop mutual cross cultural awareness and achieve personal challenges,
• Shepparton Schoolies Alternative
Students from a Lutheran College in Adelaide work with young refugees in Shepparton. The school hopes to strengthen and grow the connections with refugee communities.
Crossroads is a two-week pilgrimage for Year 12 school leavers from the Melbourne, run by the Melbourne Catholic Archdiocese. Students engage with remote communities, where they do volunteer work.
• ‘Coolies’ Program
Run by De La Salle College, the Coolies program takes 12 school leavers to for a month to work as unskilled labourers (‘coolies’) in rural villages and try to improve the lives of the poor. Students have built a new primary school classroom and toilet block.
STORM Co. is a youth initiative of the South Pacific Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It sends teams of trained young people to work for, learn from, and encourage individual communities, especially in remote parts of Australia.