Leavers: A Good News Story
Leavers, or Schoolies Week as it is know in other parts of Australia, is an institution that cries out for media attention. And media attention it gets! In the coming weeks we will be inundated with footage of teenagers drunkenly staggering, vomiting, swearing and blabbering incomprehensibly. There will be stories of sexual assault, rampant promiscuity and extremely risky behaviour. Some of it will be true, but much of it will be sensationalised.
I recently sat with teens from a variety of schools who attended Schoolies last year. I expected some talk about drugs and alcohol and promiscuity. I got some of that. I also heard about time at the beach and hanging out with friends and usual holiday stories.
The thing I didn’t expect was kids to show such great appreciation for the people who watch over them during Schoolies. One organisation in particular was lauded…Red Frogs Australia. I had never heard of them, so naturally had to find out more.
Red Frogs started in 1997 on the Gold Coast. Founder Andy Gourley was a youth pastor. He and some of his skateboarding mates realised that there was an obvious need for designated sober people at the schoolies gatherings. It started with one hotel accessing assistance from Andy and his mates and has spread into an international organisation. There are Red Frogs in Australia, New Zealand, UK, Canada, South Africa and Poland. In Australia alone they have 1500 volunteers.
The reason the volunteers and their organisation is called Red Frogs is because initially they would offer Allen’s red frogs to young people as a way of breaking the ice and starting a conversation. The confectionary company jumped on board with sponsorship and Red Frogs Australia was born. Each year the organisation hands out 16 tonnes of frogs!
Red Frogs is a support program for young people from the ages of 15 – 25. They recognise that the culture of young people is dominated by alcohol. In turn they recognise that excessive consumption of alcohol and other substances can lead to dangerous and life altering behaviours. Red Frogs make it their mission to provide a positive peer presence in alcohol-fuelled environments where young people gather. They also educate young people on safe partying behaviours, and promote and provide activities that don’t involve drinking to distract and entertain young people in these potentially dangerous environments.
It is all pretty admirable. And given the way they are spoken of by past Schoolies, it is appreciated by young people. Some of the services Red Frogs offer are: providing emotional support when things go wrong, walking kids home to keep them safe and cooking pancakes just to ensure kids are actually eating. The pancakes are a particularly big hit!
Another service volunteers offer is helping kids clean their accommodation at the end of the week. Many kids are used to going on holidays with their parents and not having to do too much to help. The reality of cleaning rental houses is a bit of a shock to some. In this way Red Frogs provide some education and keep landlords happy at the same time.
When asked how parents can prepare kids for Schoolies, Red Frogs gave these 5 valuable tips:
1. Remind them to call 000 in an emergency
Ambulance officers will not be worried about legal implications. Health and safety are their main concern. Let kids know that if they have any doubts at all about their own, or a friend’s, health and wellbeing call 000.
2. Buy kids easily prepared food and slabs of water
Frozen meals are a great idea and will ensure your child is fuelling themselves well. Dehydration is a concern at Leavers and can lead to further health concerns, especially when combined with alcohol.
3. Remind them to always stay with their friends.
Kids should never go anywhere alone, especially at night. They also shouldn’t stay alone in accommodation. Red Frog volunteers will walk your child home if necessary and if one person needs to stay home alone, a red frog will come and be with them…armed with frogs and pancakes. They are only a phone call away.
4. Schedule times to contact your child throughout schoolies week.
A specific, pre-arranged time to connect with your child will alleviate potential stress for you.
5. Ensure your child puts the Red Frogs Hotline number in their phone
(1300 557 123)
Red Frogs volunteers can be accessed 24/7 during Schoolies week. Anyone can ring for advice or to request red frogs, pancake cook-ups, walk homes, mediation, emergency assistance and referrals. Parents are welcome to call the hotline at any time.
Linda Stade has worked in various teaching and management roles in education for twenty-five years. She has worked in government and private schools, country and city, single-sex and co-ed. Currently, she is the Research Officer at Santa Maria College, Western Australia. She has a Facebook page here.