Schoolies are often pressured to drink, says chaplaincy group. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
Teenagers attending schoolies are often pressured into booze-fuelled parties and need more alternative events, a school chaplaincy group says.
More than 30,000 school leavers are preparing to attend celebrations at Surfers Paradise starting on Saturday, with alcohol-related issues one of the major concerns for police and community groups.
The head of SU QLD, organisers of an alcohol-free schoolies event on the Sunshine Coast, says more needs to be done to prevent youngsters feeling they have to drink alcohol when partying.
"Because of a pervasive stereotype about what celebration should be, they feel obliged to behave artificially and too often that includes excessive alcohol, unwanted sexual activity and drugs," SU QLD chief executive officer Peter James said.
"We know that for a significant number who attend the Gold Coast, the week includes negative experiences they will regret long afterwards.
"For thousands of schoolies, there is no attraction to participate in what they see on the television news every year at the Gold Coast, but they don't think they have a choice. They see no alternative."
Mr James says community groups could do more to offer alternatives to the traditional schoolies celebrations.
Meanwhile, Queensland Children's Commissioner Elizabeth Fraser is calling on parents to warn their teenagers about the risks they could face during schoolies celebrations.
"Young people who drink alcohol, particularly at high levels, are at increased risk of injury, self-harm, violence and risky behaviour, including risky sexual behaviour," Ms Fraser said.
"Parents play a crucial role in educating teenagers about alcohol and safe sex practices and helping them to develop a responsible attitude towards drinking and sexual relationships.
"In the lead-up to schoolies week, I encourage all parents to speak to their children before the partying begins.
"Make schoolies week a time to celebrate and not to regret."