Poolies-the new trend in schoolie celebrations!
The formal is done.
Exams are looming and valedictorian celebrations are in train.
Soon, all the attention will turn to schoolies week, and it’s not just the kids who are getting excited.
I have a friend heading to Fiji for schoolies week……… with her graduating grade twelve daughter!
My friend is a poolie!
If a schoolie is a school leaver who celebrates the end of high school at schoolies week, and a toolie is someone who is no longer a schoolie but attends schoolies week, then a poolie is a parent of a school leaver, who attends schoolies week with their schoolie.
My poolie friend has planned a week-long Pacific Island holiday and another mum is joining her and the thousands of 17 and 18 year old schoolies heading to Fiji this year.
Is this taking helicopter-parenting to the next altitude?
Hovering around while her teenage daughter tries to enjoy her first taste of freedom sounds like the flight path of a mum, who has difficulty relinquishing control.
Surely, crashing this rite of passage is a ridiculous case of over the top parenting.
Well that was my first reaction as well, but hear my friend out.
“First of all I am on an completely different island, she won’t see me for the entire week,” she explained.
“But if something goes wrong at schoolies and she was on the Gold Coast I would only be an hour away,” she said.
“If something goes wrong in Fiji, at least I am only two hours away and in the same country, not two days away and at the mercy of flight schedules.
“Not to mention, I feel more comfortable with the hospital system in Queensland and of course there’s a very strong police presence on the Gold Coast.”
School leavers away internationally for the biggest party of your life! Holiday and Party in Fiji
While not every parent would share her commitment, most parents of school-leavers would share her concern.
For the past decade there has been one schoolies related death every year, and according to research from the National Schoolies Week organization, 52% of boys and 37% of girls get drunk every night of their trip.
Parents worry about booze-fuelled violence, potential drink spiking, alcohol poisoning, balcony hopping, recklessness, risky behaviour, toolies preying on vulnerable teenagers and even rape.
Over 45 000 head to the Gold Coast every year to mark schoolies and the numbers heading overseas, mostly to Fiji and Vanuatu but increasingly to Cambodia and Vietnam even Europe, are growing every year.
The overseas schoolies tour operators sell the rite of passage holidays as exclusive, no-toolies, schoolies-only and safe with dedicated security, medical centres and around the clock emergency contacts.
So, if you shut down the argument of safety and understand that my friend has not only been a schoolie but a toolie herself and is just as keen for her daughter to have this first experience of independence and overseas adventure, how else could she justify becoming a poolie?
Part of her reasoning is due to the massive money-making machine that is now schoolies, worth $67 million to the Queensland economy.
Whether it’s the Gold Coast or Fiji, kids booking their end of high school accommodation or packages have to do it up to two years in advance.
“My daughter was 15 when she came and said she and her friends wanted to go to schoolies in Fiji.”
“She is my eldest and at 15, and a young 15 there was no way I could get my head around letting her go off overseas by herself, so I said she could only go if I came with her,” the poolie mum said.
“She said, fine so we paid deposits, and I booked the other island and my flights over 18 months ago.”
“If I was booking schoolies today, well I don’t feel the need to go now, “ she said.
“My daughter will be 17 soon, she’s more mature, and I don’t feel quite as nervous about letting her go….but I’m still going.”
“I’ve paid and I will go and have a relaxing, good time. I have done some hard yards too.
“And of course some of the other parents are happy I’m going, just in case.”
The schoolie in question concedes it’s a little embarrassing and other than her close friends and five Fijian travel mates, no one else knows her mum is a poolie.
“The whole point of schoolies is to get away so it’s a bit annoying, but really I’m not too bothered, I won’t even see her,” she said.
“And I suppose it’s good to know she’s around if something happens.”
In this day and age where parents are criticised for not being involved in their children’s lives and the catch cry “where are their parents?” is becoming increasingly louder maybe the poolie trend should be embraced.
In Queensland, the latest student-led phenomenon, which is gaining in popularity and negative media attention is the tradition of students from grade 12, and worryingly younger grades, heading over to Stradbroke Island in the September/October school break in what has now become known as pre-schoolies.
This is an example of where we need poolies to step up (although for my mind they should be saying no, and not caving to the whims of their kids, especially those wanting to go from younger grades- but that’s for another time) and so far, concerned parents are hoping on barges and heading to the island in droves.
These parents are hiring units to keep an eye on their kids, many of whom are camping just up the road or in many cases opting to sleep in separate tents alongside them.
They’re poolies and don’t even know it.
Maybe the next step in this ever-increasing travel sector should be schoolie packages for poolies.
In fact Australia’s largest overseas schoolies tour operator has considered it, but say the numbers aren’t there yet.
Maybe my friend could be an advisor.
So I must admit my friend’s idea of a relaxing, paradise island break to celebrate the culmination of twelve/thirteen long years of schooling has appeal.
Ironically though, this so-called helicopter mum has turned down the chopper that was offered to fly her to the non-schoolie island.