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Leavers Week and Alcohol

Leavers, or Schoolies, has become a part of the Year 12 social calendar. It is an exciting time for teenagers as they celebrate completing their schooling, and moving into a new phase of their life.

Leavers, or Schoolies, has become a stable part of the Year 12 social calendar.
Leavers, or Schoolies, has become a stable part of the Year 12 social calendar.

Leavers is a time of celebration undertaken by students who have completed the end of Year 12 exams in Western Australia (WA). Referred to as Schoolies in other states, Leavers has become popular in WA over the past decade. These celebrations can last from a few days to a few weeks.

Whilst Leavers can be an exciting time for teenagers, they may experience situations they have not been in before. At Leavers there is a good chance that teenagers will find themselves in environments where alcohol is being consumed, despite all official Leavers activities being alcohol-free.

Reports indicate excessive amounts of alcohol are consumed by teenagers during Leavers, resulting in alcohol-related harms. 2

Parents imposing strict rules related to their children’s alcohol use is strongly associated with less drinking and fewer alcohol-related risky behaviours. 3 Before your child attends Leavers, you can prepare yourself by becoming informed about:

  • The long-term effects of alcohol use on young people.
  • The immediate effects of alcohol use on the body and short-term risks of alcohol use.
  • The laws related to alcohol and young people.​

Visit the official Leavers WA website for more information and tips around events, safety, accommodation and what to expect.

How does alcohol impact teenagers at Leavers?

Alcohol use can lead to risk-taking behaviour, unsafe sex choices, sexual coercion, adverse behavioural patterns and alcohol overdose. 4 Research conducted by the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) showed that the majority of alcohol-related harms experienced by young people are caused by episodes of drinking to intoxication. 5 At one WA Leavers destination, the average daily consumption was reported at 18 standard drinks for males and 13 standard drinks for females. 6 Alcohol use at Leavers celebrations by some young people has resulted in:

  • Blackout. 7
  • Unprotected Sex. 8
  • Vomiting. 9
  • Accident/injury.18
  • Physical assault. 11
  • Sexual assault. 12

What can you do

It is important that you support your child through Leavers’ week by preparing them to avoid some of the harms they may face. You can do this by supporting them in the planning process and provide them with clear, unambiguous expectations. Ensure you read the information for parents on the Leavers’ website.

A study of Australian Leavers showed that those who agreed to have had a discussion with their parents about how to keep safe while affected by alcohol and other drug use reported lower alcohol use at Leavers13
 
References

1 Pettigrew, S., et al. (2015). "Understanding and addressing the Schoolies phenomenon." Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 39(2): pg 135.

2 Pettigrew, S., et al. (2015). “Understanding and addressing the Schoolies phenomenon.” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 39(2): pg 135.

3 Kaynak, O., Winters, K.C., Cacciola, J., Kirby, K., & Arria, A.M. (2014). "Providing Alcohol for Underage Youth: What Messages Should We Be Sending Parents?" J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs 75: pg 591.

4 National Health and Medical Research Council.(2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol: Commonwealth of Australia pg 59.

5 Jocelyn Grace, D. M. J. N. (2009). Alcohol, Risk and Harm Reduction: Drinking Amongst Young Adults in Recreational Settings in Perth. Preventing harmful drug use in Australia, Curtin University National Drug Research Institute: 64.

6 Lam, T., Liang, W., Chikritzhs, T., & Allsop, S. (2014). Alcohol and other drug use at school leavers' celebrations. Journal of Public Health, 36(3), pg 412. doi:10.1093/pubmed/fdt087.

7 Jongenelis, M., Pettigrew, S., Biagioni, N., & Hagger, M. (2016). Western australian students’ alcohol consumption and expenditure intentions for schoolies. Australian Journal of Primary Health, 23(3), pg 268. doi:10.1071/PY16104

8 Jongenelis, M., Pettigrew, S., Biagioni, N., & Hagger, M. (2016). Western australian students’ alcohol consumption and expenditure intentions for schoolies. Australian Journal of Primary Health, 23(3), pg 268. doi:10.1071/PY16104

9 Jongenelis, M., Pettigrew, S., Biagioni, N., & Hagger, M. (2016). Western australian students’ alcohol consumption and expenditure intentions for schoolies. Australian Journal of Primary Health, 23(3), pg 268. doi:10.1071/PY16104

10 Lubman, D., Droste, N., Pennay, A., Hyder, S., & Miller, P. (2014). High rates of alcohol consumption and related harm at schoolies week: A portal study. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 38(6), pg 536. doi:10.1111/1753-6405.12266

11 Lubman, D., Droste, N., Pennay, A., Hyder, S., & Miller, P. (2014). High rates of alcohol consumption and related harm at schoolies week: A portal study. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 38(6), 536-541. doi:10.1111/1753-6405.12266

12 Lubman, D., Droste, N., Pennay, A., Hyder, S., & Miller, P. (2014). High rates of alcohol consumption and related harm at schoolies week: A portal study. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 38(6), pg.536. doi:10.1111/1753-6405.12266

13 Lam, T., Chikritzhs, T., Liang, W., & Allsop, S. (2017). Parental alcohol supply at school leavers’ celebrations and other peer-based social events. Journal of Substance Use, 22(5), pg 516-523. doi:10.1080/14659891.2016.1259365