The Changing Face of Schoolies

By: Justin Rouillon

“The schoolies culture has changed quite significantly and it’s a lot easier to manage than ten years ago.”

That’s Red Frogs CEO Andy Gourley, or Boss Frog as he’s more affectionately known, on the change in schoolies behaviour over recent years.

When it comes to looking after our school leavers as they transition from Grade 12 into the next stage of their lives Andy is a bona fide expert.

From humble beginnings, Red Frogs began when Andy was the youth pastor at Citipointe Church in Brisbane.  It was 1997 and he was mentoring a group of young skaters who were heading off to schoolies, and realised the need for a responsible sober person to be present at the huge drinking sessions.

Andy Gourley
Red Frogs CEO Andy Gourley

Quickly Andy realised that he could make a difference to more schoolies than just his skaters, and started crashing parties using Allen’s Red Frogs lollies as an icebreaker.

Fast forward 22 years and Andy has seen it all.  He said that there’s been a significant change in the schoolies drinking culture over the past decade.

There’s so many more schoolies not drinking, or not drinking as much.  So we’re excited about the trend there, but the two things trending the other way are drugs and mental health.

Andy said that the change in culture was due to a number of factors.

For a large percentage of schoolies alcohol has moved from a primary focus to a secondary focus.  Now the primary thing is the dance party, the band, the event and then drinking comes second.  Also there’s a lot more training for sport, who are very disciplined in their regimes.  Body image has come into the mix, where drinking is a carb option.

“Then you’ve also got the smashed avo’ culture where they’re happy to do some lattes instead of the beers.”

Red Frogs
This year over 1200 volunteers will distribute 8 tonnes of Allen’s Red Frogs.

Tips For Parents

Despite the downward trend of alcohol consumption Andy insists that it’s important for parents to model responsible behaviour, and not supply their kids with grog ahead of schoolies.

“That’s where the real issues come, because they’ll not just take yours but they’ll buy their own as well, so then they have a big oversupply of alcohol.”

A better option is for parents to supply bottled water as well as pre-made meals.

“Make up lasagnes, spaghetti bolognaise, take some frozen meals.  Just get some food into them during the week.  And make sure they download the Red Frogs app on their phone so they can ask for walk homes and random acts of pancakes from the team.  Also program the Red Frogs Hotline into their phone – 1300 557 123, that’s really important.”

Internationally respected wine writer Tyson Stelzer echoes that sentiment and said that it is imperative for parents to model responsible behaviour.

“Teens are very impressionable and if parents are setting a good example of alcohol use I think that is the most profound statement we can make for our young people.”

Tyson Stelzer
Tyson Stelzer.

Before taking the wine world by storm Tyson was a high school science teacher on the Gold Coast, and heard about plenty of his student’s big weekends.  Often those kids wouldn’t talk to their parents, so it’s important to keep the lines of communication open.

“Have an open and honest conversation about it.  Have a chat with your kids about what they’re seeing, about what they’re experiencing and feeling.  And even when they’re younger before they encounter alcohol within their social groups, make them aware of the risks and dangers alcohol pose to a developing mind.”

To combat underage binge drinking Tyson setup the Teen Rescue Foundation, with the primary objective being to raise funds for frontline organisations such as Red Frogs and Scripture Union.  He’s also written a parent’s resource – A Parents’ Guide to Teen Alcohol & Parties.

“The foundation helps to provide the resources that they need to get more volunteers out there where they really need them.  The Parents’ Guide will give parents some good strategies for those with concerns about their own teens alcohol abuse.

There’s a number of ways you can get on board with the work of Teen Rescue and Red Frogs.  Red Frogs have an opportunity where you can fund a frog to look after school leavers.  There’s also a need for pancake shakers, with the Red Frogs crew going through around 10,000 of these over the course of the celebrations.  You can also register as a volunteer on the Red Frogs website.

Red Frogs have a great schoolies FAQ’s for parents which is compulsory reading!

Parent’s can read a digital copy of A Parents’ Guide to Teen Alcohol & Parties here, and the booklet is available to order for school and community groups.

Article supplied with thanks to 96five.

About the author: Justin Rouillon is a senior producer and content creator who works in broadcast radio.