OPINION: Make schoolies an investment, not a party

YES it's that time of the year again when the Gold Coast battens down the hatches for another wave of fresh-cut graduates letting off steam after the intensity of finishing school.

Police enforce breathalysers down every street and prepare to have their resources stretched to breaking point.

Yes, it's schoolies. That almost ritualistic-like attempt at 'fun' that happens year-in, year-out along prominent hotspots along the Australian coastline.

It's cynical of me to brown-nose children having fun, but at the very least there are improvements from some of the other horror stories that have floated around since 2009, like how youth binge drinking levels have actually dropped by more than 57% since 2015, according to the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education. 

But then you take it with a pinch of salt, upon discovering the waves of violence that perpetuate the little phenomenon; of 1500 respondents in the 2011 Drug Arm's schoolies statistics, 14.2% had been in a fight, 26.5% had been injured in some way, and 16.8% admitted to having unsafe sex.

Perhaps, instead of investing all that energy into a week drinking along the Gold Coast boulevard, maybe more money could be invested into programs that advance social progress and give something back to local communities?

Back in 2010, when I finished up with my studies, I spent a good week in Vanuatu helping refurbish and paint classrooms for NiVan schoolchildren and managing to relax on a pristine beach with some of my schoolmates.

There was no (or barely any) alcohol between anyone, and we were able to have plenty of fun between ourselves.

That experience, while not on the Gold Coast, did give me one thing I'm proud of today: perspective. You learn to understand what food on a plate really means, and how education is more of a gift than a priority for some.

And more importantly, it allowed us to give something back to people who were in dire need.

An investment in programs like that would help to advance some of the more troublesome areas of social progress in our nation, or others. Not to mention they'd be provided with perspective on what it means to have a hard day's worth of work with the program.

And as an added benefit, think of the money saved between graduates? Instead of thousands gone to hotel bookings, flights and booze, that potential waste becomes an investment to give them a headstart in their tertiary education, or get them started in the treacherous bubble of the Australian housing industry.

Do I want to be the person to say that schoolies needs to stop altogether, and graduates should just learn to indulge in the fine art of classical literary studies? Not at all; I'm all for people having fun, and even drinking within their means of self-control.

But the question is where we draw the line in the sand - when we see more arrests, debauchery, and violence clogging up the streets, and just passing it off as "well, that's how teens are..."

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