Why I am NOT supplying alcohol to my schoolie!

I am just about to send my fourth daughter in five years to schoolies and while I have arranged a pack filled with sunscreen, shampoo, cereal and hand sanitizer, I will NOT be supplying her with alcohol.
Every year a different set of friends, who have kids about to head off to the annual end-of-year freedom (read drink) fest, raise this parenting dilemma and from those who are buying booze for their under-age children, it’s always the same argument.

“At least I know what they are drinking,” they say.

This year many of the girlfriends I went through high school and schoolies with, are packing off their precious 17 year olds for the first time, and their views on whether to supply or not, like the coolers we used to consume, are mixed.

I am not burying my head in the Gold Coast sand; I have no doubt my daughter and her mates will celebrate, but I still haven’t changed my mind when it comes to supplying and this is why.

1. Sibling equality.

I didn’t provide any alcohol for the first three daughters so to change tack for the last two would be unfair.

2. It promotes problem solving.

Who buys? When? How much? and what has to be finessed. The questions of weight, transport and storage also have to be resolved.

3. It creates an environment of creativity.

I remember with fondness the lengths my friends and I went to, to get West Coast Wine Coolers for our schoolies week. I don’t want to deny my children their glory-day stories to repeat ad nauseam.

(Although for the most part, it was simply a case of walking into the Broadbeach Beer Garden and ordering it, as no-one checked ID. However my parents never gave me alcohol before I left school and now with hindsight, I possibly could attribute my resourcefulness to schoolies)

4. It requires budgeting and financial responsibility.

I am big on the kids taking ownership of themselves.

My husband and I are paying the accommodation, but nothing else. I know many parents who didn’t and aren’t covering this cost, which means their school leavers have had to consider their monetary position well in advance. Fantastic.

In my situation, it means my daughter will have to work out how much she is prepared to pay for alcohol, what food and other entertainment she needs to budget for and whether buying an extra six-pack is worth it, if it means foregoing a meal with her mates. And yes I know there will be some that argue she will just spend her money on drinking. My response is: I have had conversations with her about the dangers and consequences of over-indulgence and so at some point trust in your parenting has to be considered. (Also she likes eating too much)

5. You do not know what they are drinking.

Anecdotally over the years, I have heard from the kids themselves that the first night is the biggest because they have so much alcohol to drink.

“It’s there so we kept drinking it,” they’ve said.

My view is that parents, who supply the six-pack of cruisers or the carton of beer only know what their kids are drinking to start with. Those teens have more money to buy more alcohol than those who had to budget from the outset.

According to the Australian Drug Foundation almost 40% of under-age drinkers get their grog from their parents. I couldn’t find any parenting authority which advised of that being the most appropriate way to deal with the dilemma of supply.

6. It is illegal.

Police and Liquor and Gaming inspectors can issue $256 fines to under-age schoolies. In the worst cases kids can be taken to court and fined up to $2846 so those on the cusp of adult-hood need to know the consequences.

7. It is illegal.

In Queensland the legal age to purchase and consume alcohol is 18.

17 year olds are classed as adult offenders if caught and convicted, which would mean potentially problems getting a job or travelling.

8. It is illegal

There are laws about the secondary supply of alcohol, so parents and indeed anyone over 18, who supply the booze can be fined a whopping $9108. That’s an overseas trip thank you very much.

9. It is illegal

Yes it is lawful to supply minors alcohol in a private home, under responsible supervision. I have allowed my daughters to drink in our presence and under our supervision, (and one I admit who did in my presence but without supervision- another story) but the five or six teenagers to a hotel room in a Surfers Paradise high-rise is not considered a private residence. Nor is the 18 year old, who repeated grade 12 and is also celebrating the end of high school, considered a responsible supervisor. So unless the parent is staying there, (and alas I do know some who would like to do that to re-live the eighties) it’s hard to argue accountability.

10. It is illegal.

So while I may have made light about what to many is a serious parenting crossroad, to me to boils down to a couple of key messages.

Schoolies is a right of passage, it’s said, so:

1. It’s time for her to take some control and ownership of her life and choices.

2. I am not going to be the money tree next year so get used to it and

3. It’s against the law for me to supply it.

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