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Bitter lesson for embattled Year 12s - Schoolies cancelled but refunds unlikely

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The cancellation of Schoolies is giving the Class of 2020 one last learning opportunity – a lesson in consumer rights.

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Thousands of school leavers have endured a series of pandemic-induced knocks throughout their final year of schooling, and the bad news keeps coming with many told they would be unable to get a refund for their party-week bookings.

The State Government last week cancelled Schoolies Week and students were told there would be no mass gatherings on the Gold Coast or other Queensland party hotspots.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said concerts and organised events for Schoolies Week would be banned.

However, while the government ban means organised events would be cancelled, it does not mean school-leavers can’t travel to the Gold Coast or use accommodation booked for the week.

The Office of Fair Trading has revealed that as a result, students could not expect bookings to be automatically refunded.

Fair Trading Executive Director Brian Bauer said interstate students stood a better chance than Queensland students of securing a refund.

“If school leavers need to travel to Queensland from restricted interstate regions like Melbourne and they made their booking pre-COVID-19, then they may be entitled to a refund as these bookings cannot go ahead due to government restrictions imposed after the arrangements were made,” Mr Bauer said.

“Queensland school leavers are still allowed to travel to the Gold Coast and so are able to take up their bookings and have an end of year celebration, but they will need to comply with the restrictions in place, including social distancing and limits on gatherings in holiday units.

“These consumers are unlikely to be automatically entitled to a refund however they may still have options under their booking provider’s terms and conditions.”

Schoolies Week booking website schoolies.com has offered only a credit voucher for cancelled bookings and is still urging school-leavers to celebrate their end of schooling, claiming the Government could not cancel the event as it “is not controlled by one organisation or destination.”

“There is no reason to cancel your booking now, but if you do, your non-refundable deposit will convert to a Credit Voucher,” the site said.

“All students deserve the opportunity to celebrate the end of their school years. We are hopeful that Schoolies will go ahead this year, but in the event you are not permitted to check-in to your accommodation due to Government restrictions, we’ve got you covered,” the site tells schoolies.

One group encouraging campers to have their own socially distanced “Schoolies bush doof” beach parties in November at Rainbow Beach, Inskip Point, and Teewah Beach — all north of Noosa — has attracted more than 1200 members.

Gympie mayor Glen Hartwig said visitors would be more than welcome — as long as they followed COVID-19 guidelines and respected other campers.

“We love to welcome visitors to our region. It’s a beautiful part of the world,” Cr Hartwig said of the Rainbow Beach area, a tourist town popular with campers and four-wheel-drive enthusiasts year-round.

“We’d certainly like visitors to our region. But nothing like the Gold Coast,” he said.

Local businesses are well prepared with COVID-Safe plans, the Cr Hartwig said, but “if you did have a mass exodus from Brisbane and the Gold Coast, and people came in a wave to Gympie or Rainbow Beach, it would make it difficult to control that”.

“Sometimes Schoolies aren’t well renowned for adhering to rules and restrictions at that time of year, which is understandable to a certain degree,” he said.

“If those people come and abide by the rules the State Government has set then we welcome them.

“We want people that want to respect the local residents, not put them at risk of COVID outbreaks.

“If you don’t want to abide by those restrictions, we’d like you to stay away.”

So far, bookings with Queensland Parks and Wildlife in the Cooloola, Teewah and Inskip areas in the last week of November remain low.

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