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Pollies say they're powerless to stop Schoolies, but will enforce restrictions

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Schoolies week on the Gold Coast looks set to go ahead by default, with civic leaders seemingly powerless to stop the November event.

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The Queensland Government has come under increasing pressure to make a call on the issue, but Education Minister Grace Grace said it was not in her remit. “The Queensland Government doesn’t organise schoolies, but we understand the importance of end-of-year celebrations for Year 12 graduates,” she said.

“Should organisers go ahead with schoolies plans, activities would need to be held in a format that abides by Government restrictions in place at that point in time — for example, crowd numbers at events.”

No single governing body

With the Gold Coast Marathon and Gold Coast 600 Supercars cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions, uncertainty has swirled around the fate of Schoolies Week in 2020.

Unlike organised major events, however, there is no single governing body for school leavers’ celebrations, with much of the hype generated organically by graduating high schoolers.

“If those hotels are open, I guarantee you there will be schoolies there,” said Andy Gourley, founder of the Red Frogs chaplaincy service.

“The schoolies always just come, and they will find a way to come.”

Sanctioned beach parties in the first week of schoolies, which is dominated by underage Queenslanders, are put on by a State Government-led safety response as a diversionary tactic.

Mass gatherings in the second week, attended mainly by older school leavers from Victoria and New South Wales, are privately run.

While these larger functions might not go ahead, Gourley said Red Frogs and other support agencies were still preparing to be on hand.

“We’d love to have as much of a response as possible if schoolies are there, but it will be a [coronavirus] safety thing for our volunteers,” Gourley said.

“We’ll see how Queensland does in the next few months.”

‘Rollercoaster’ year for students

For Brisbane State High School student Ally Rendall, Schoolies Week remains a beacon of hope after coronavirus restrictions forced the cancellation of many other final year milestones.

“It has been a rollercoaster. When this whole coronavirus thing started and we went into lockdown, everyone was just mad,” she said.

“It was like our senior year had been taken from us because all these events have been cancelled.

“The least we could hope for is to have schoolies.”

Rendall and her friendship group had been planning their end-of-year celebrations since booking their accommodation last year.

Their plans were now in limbo, she said.

“I really hope that it happens because I am really excited; we are kind of just waiting to hear if it is cancelled or not,” she said.

“Other friends of mine have been saying, ‘oh we’ll just go anyway, they can’t really stop us’, but my friendship group specifically hasn’t really spoken about it.

“Because we have already booked, I don’t need an answer now, but I can understand people who haven’t booked yet, they wouldn’t want to make any commitments until they know if it is actually happening or not.”

– ABC / Jennifer Huxley

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