Researchers are joining teenagers on the Gold Coast this weekend to discover what lies behind the annual Schoolies celebration. It comes after a previous study found Gold Coast residents had an overall attitude of tolerance towards Schoolies.
An anticipated 25,000-strong Schoolies contingent settled in for week-long partying after arriving on the Gold Coast during the weekend.
Professor Sharyn Rundle-Thiele will lead a team of social marketers from Griffith University handing out 19,000 wristbands, inscribed with positive messages.
The colourful bands have 10 different messages, such as, “Play don’t play up”, “Ask her for advice”, “Give this band to someone awesome,” and “It’s play time”.
Professor Rundle-Thiele said it was hoped the research would find a new way to talk to young people about assaults and staying safe.
“It’s a really difficult topic to talk about… (It’s) more engaging if we can have some fun,” she said.
“It’s a serious message but we’re not trying to engage in a way that really, everyone wants to have a good night out.
“The messages on the bracelets are in the words of young people and are reminders to play safe.
“Some messages are focused on fun, support and socialising, while other messages are more traditionally focused.”
Professor Rundle-Thiele said the Schoolies trial would inform an upcoming pilot program to be rolled out in Fortitude Valley in December in partnership with the police.
“(We’ll) start listening to their words, so ultimately when we hit the Fortitude Valley, we’re speaking with their language,” she said.
Teens will also be asked questions such as: “What will you do to have no fights tonight?”
Why Schoolies take increased risks
Meanwhile, University of Queensland School of Psychology researchers will speak to school leavers about how risk-taking is perceived during Schoolies compared to other times of years.
Researcher Tegan Cruwys said teens would be asked about walking home alone at night, drink-sharing, going home with strangers, drinking games and taking risks at dangerous heights.
“Our hypothesis is that when we feel like we are part of a group, we feel safer so may not necessarily realise the inherent dangers associated with a particular activity,” Dr Cruwys said.
“The surveys will help us better understand what factors can have a positive impact on the mental and physical health of school leavers.”
Our Watch’s youth arm, The Line, also has a booth at Schoolies encouraging people to say no to violence, with a photo booth and temporary tattoos with messages, such as “I’m a lover not a fighter” and “make love not pain”.
An online survey of 880 adults living on the Gold Coast, by Griffith University researchers, showed a diverse range of attitudes towards the annual celebration, but a general tolerance.
The data separated people into four categories – supporters (15 per cent), conditional supporters (33 per cent), conditional opponents (33.6 per cent) and opponents (18.4 per cent).
Professor David Weaver said supporters were more likely to rely on their own and their children’s Schoolies experience whereas opponents were more likely to be influenced by mass media, social circles nad negative personal exposure.