Lifting the lid on Leavers: what actually happens

WA Police are urging teens to look after themselves.
WA Police are urging teens to look after themselves.

It’s that time of year again, when the last exam pens get packed away and Rottnest and Dunsborough become a 21st century Sodom and Gomorrah.

And with that relief for teens comes sleepless nights for their parents, as they watch them load up on enough booze to sink a battleship (or worse) and head off with their friends.

We all see the images on the nightly news: the drunken hordes, boys and girls fighting, vomiting and causing chaos for law enforcement and locals.

But is it that bad?

Not according to Hayden Glass, the state co-ordinator of Red Frogs – an organisation that provides support to leavers during the event.

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Mr Glass said the event is nowhere near as sordid as news coverage would have us believe.

“What does concern me are young people who are making risky decisions and engaging in risk-taking behaviour,” Mr Glass said.

“But let’s be honest that’s a really small percentage.

“A lot of the young people that I speak with are just down here to celebrate the end of school, they’re having a great time.

“Some of the conversations that we have with these young people around their dreams and aspirations for the future are truly inspiring.

“It’s a shame that gets missed out on in the media coverage.”

But things do get wild.

Simone*, who attended leavers in Rottnest at the end of 2013, said sex, booze and drugs were rife on the island.

“There was a zone, but we didn’t go there because at the time we didn’t think it was cool to go to the pre-organised zone,” she said.

“There were lots of house parties.

“We drank heaps,” she said, describing the drinks of choice as “communal goon” and vodka.

“We had heaps of alcohol.

“In our house, I think everyone vomited at least once.

“Our house didn’t have any drugs but a couple of doors down people  were smoking weed every day. You’d walk past and smell it.

“There were lots of ecstasy pills. Nothing more severe that I knew of. There probably was, but I never saw it.”

“Heaps of my friends lost their virginity on leavers. That was a pretty common theme.

“Lots of promiscuity.”

Simone said the partying took so much out of her she slept for three days on her return.

But overall she said the experience was one she enjoyed.

“I look back on it fondly, because I didn’t do anything really stupid,” she said.

“I vomited and stuff, but I didn’t really carry on and do anything I regret.”

Red Frogs has about 100 volunteers on the ground across both Dunsborough and Rottnest to try and ensure as many people as possible have fond memories of their leavers experience.

“We really focus a lot on the accommodation,” Mr Glass said.

“A lot of our thing is really around positive decision making, talking to them about how they’re going to party. Making sure they know their limits and also knowing where to get help as well.

“It’s an artificial environment. There can be a lot of relationship breakdowns between peers.

“We kind of get involved in that mediation space.”

Parents who are concerned about their children’s leavers experience can visit the WA Police Leavers 2017 website for some practical advice.

*Name changed