Date published: 26 November 2015
As thousands of school leavers prepare to party, parents are becomingly exceedingly nervous by the prospect of schoolies 2015.
A time-honoured ritual, schoolies is an opportunity for recent graduates to let their hair down after the long hard slog of their final year. Whilst traditionally teens would head to the Gold Coast or Byron Bay, many more are now opting for more exotic overseas hotspots like Bali, Fiji and Thailand.
Data from comparetravelinsurance.com.au reveals that in November 2014, up to 52% of travellers aged 17-19 holidayed in Pacific regions like Bali, Fiji and Vanuatu. An additional 13% chose to vacation in Asian destinations like Thailand, Vietnam and India and a further 10% selected Europe for their post-school break.
In recent years Bali is proving to be a particularly dangerous destination not just for schoolies, but for Australians in general. Comparetravelinsurance.com.au can report that 1 in 73 travellers to Bali will claim for stolen or lost belongings and a disproportionate number of Australians in Bali will get hurt or fall ill each year. Shocking statistics reveal that one Australian will die on the sunny island every nine days.
1Cover Travel Insurance spokeswoman Kelly Herbert says that young Australians should consider the risks involved when heading to a foreign country.
“When planning a schoolies trip, particularly one abroad, it’s essential that young travellers are informed. Teens should understand that reckless behaviour can have serious consequences both at home and away.”
Ms Herbert maintains that accountability for one’s actions should not be taken lightly.
“Whilst your travel insurance can assist you in an emergency, it is not a replacement for common sense and basic safety.”
No matter the destination, wary mums and dads are feeling the tension as they farewell their children for what is often their first, real taste of freedom.
Perth father Lance Gillon says he can’t help but worry about the risks associated with schoolies. He waits with bated breath to discover where his daughter and friends intend on celebrating the end of year 12.
“I trust my daughter and neither she nor her friends are big drinkers so I’m not worried about their behaviour – of course I am worried about the people and shenanigans that goes on around them.”
“We would never consider not letting her go, but I’ll probably board the plane in a disguise if she said they were headed to go to Bali or the Gold Coast.”
Mr Gillon adds that highly circulated images of the wild and dangerous antics of schoolies on social media have only exacerbated his fears.
“When you combine excitement, inexperience, alcohol, and a large group of young people away from home, there is bound to be some trouble. I can only live in hope and trust that it is not nearly as bad as the imagery plastered on social media portrays.”
The stats on schoolies
Schoolies has had a long-standing history of drug and alcohol abuse as well as senseless violence and ill-advised behaviour. Whilst most revellers ultimately survive the week or two with little more than a bad case of sunburn, a fair number will come home with an injury, criminal record or worse. During 2010 schoolies, 145 people were arrested on the Gold Coast alone.
A schoolie misdemeanour can also be embarrassingly costly, as Jesse of Nowra discovered the hard way. The NSW teen, along with four friends managed to rack up a bill of over $2,000 after badly damaging their apartment on the Gold Coast.
Jesse says, “I think it was ridiculous how much we were charged. The place was a dump. They basically had our pants down with the amount of extra charges. Yeah the place was trashed but it wasn’t that bad.”
The group of boys also had to spend their last night of schoolies sleeping on the beach and were sorely reprimanded once they returned home.
Natalie Ball, director Comparetravelinsurance.com.au says:
“We would always advise those travelling on schoolies trips to act with common sense. Having the good sense to avoid risky scenarios is essential whether you’re travelling within Australia or to foreign countries. And if you’re planning on trashing your hotel room, don’t count on travel insurance to bail you out.”
Schoolies take high-rise risks
Of late, schoolies and balcony fatalities have become a worryingly growing trend. In 2012 Brisbane woman Isabelle Colman caused shockwaves after she died falling from a Gold Coast high-rise balcony. Isabelle was the sixth person to die from a balcony death in just 12 months.
Eva Chan, who witnessed a young man falling from a balcony in 2009, says she was greatly affected by the event.
“I was just crossing the road when I heard a loud ‘bang’ and realised someone had fallen off a balcony. Film crews were on the scene before the ambulance even arrived. I was on holidays with my mum and we had no idea that schoolies was on or that these kind of things happen. We just happened to be there at the wrong time and it was pretty awful.”
Often spurred on by alcohol, reckless behaviour such as ‘apartment jumping’ (leaping from one balcony to the next) and leaning, sitting or hanging off the sides of balconies have led to a frightening spike in deaths and injuries.
And whilst buying travel insurance may be a good way to safeguard schoolies, note that cover may not apply to a balcony fall.
For instance, a claim would be invalidated if the insured was drinking excessively at the time or found to be behaving recklessly.
In 2011 a well-known travel insurer rejected a claim related to a balcony fall that killed a young man in Fiji who was heavily intoxicated at the time.
After leaping off a balcony into a swimming pool the teenager drowned after allegedly participating in a breath-holding dare underwater.
Ms Ball says that people are often unaware that claims for injuries and accidents are not covered if alcohol is involved.
“Travellers need to be aware that dangerous behaviour, in combination with excessive alcohol consumption will almost certainly void your travel insurance. If you can’t take reasonable steps to ensure your safety, then your insurer can’t be expected to pick up the pieces,” says Ms Ball.
As to whether or not tighter reinforcements such as balcony bans would reduce or limit deaths or injuries during schoolies remains to be seen.
“Ultimately it is the individual’s responsibility to ensure that they are taking all precautions necessary to prevent accidents. Travel insurance is there to protect you for unforeseen events, such as sudden illness, unfortunate accidents, severe weather, cancellations, and lost or stolen belongings. Intentionally putting yourself in danger will not be covered.”