School leavers are being told they can still celebrate their Schoolies, as long as it’s in a COVID-safe way.
It comes after Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Friday that organised events and concerts at the annual Gold Coast festival would not go ahead due to the “great risk” it posed.
Schoolies.com CEO Matt Lloyd said he respected and agreed with the decision to cancel events over the Schoolies period, but would his organisation would still do what it could to help school leavers celebrate their graduation in line with government guidelines.
“We know Schoolies traditionally occurs whenever and wherever young people travel together to celebrate the completion of Year 12,” Mr Lloyd said.
“It is not controlled by one organisation or destination, spanning from Western Australia through to Airlie Beach in North Queensland.”
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Mr Lloyd said as Australia’s “largest and most trusted Schoolies accommodation provider”, the role of schoolies.com was to ensure school leavers had a safe stay, wherever that may be.
“Our accommodation providers are working closely with our team to implement COVID-safe plans and social distancing protocols, as they would for all non-Schoolies guests,” Mr Lloyd said.
“This will include staggered check-in for the larger accommodation providers to prevent queues on arrival and Schoolies-specific, COVID-safe house rules.
“Students will be permitted to check in to their chosen accommodation in small groups, subject to the restrictions and border closures in force on the day of check-in.”
Ms Palaszczuk said there would be nothing wrong with small groups of young people booking accommodation at places close to where they lived, but the official Schoolies event was cancelled.
“So long as they actually abide by those rules and regulations that are set in place for hotel accommodation, then there is nothing to worry about,” she said.
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate however, is telling all school leavers to stay away from the Glitter Strip.
“Imagine if you came to Schoolies… and you brought COVID back home to your mum and dad… you would never forget that Schoolies week,” he said.
“It would be wrong, detrimental to the Gold Coast to host this thing and then have an outbreak, even if it is only half as bad as Melbourne… that’s the long devastation we’ll avoid.
“(Instead) get on Zoom, enjoy yourself that way… Schoolies is all about sharing it from your heart this time around.”
Mr Lloyd said schoolies.com was in conversation with a number of local tour and attraction operators to “provide special deals to entertain this year’s graduates in a way that is safe and in line with the advice of Government and Health officials.”
The chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young sympathised with year 12 graduates.
“I’m really sorry you can’t have the traditional celebration,” she said.
“The last year of school is so important … so much of it has had to change this year.
“But this group is so resilient and innovative, I’m looking forward to seeing what they put in place instead of mass gatherings.”
Ms Palaszczuk said it was a tough year for everyone, and hopefully there could be a “double celebration” next year.
“It is about the health of everyone,” she said.
“The Schoolies that we have come to know over the years will not be able to go ahead in that form this year. This is a very tough decision,” she said.
“This is a mass event. It poses high risk. High risk, not only the people who attend, all the young people, but also all the people they come in contact with and, of course, their families and their friends and their grandparents.”
Ms Palaszczuk said any concerts and organised events would be cancelled due to rules around mass gatherings.
“I hope parents can understand and students can understand that this event cannot go ahead in this format this year,” she said.
Mr Lloyd said schoolies.com had introduced some “temporary flexibility” into booking terms and conditions to ensure school leavers have additional time and options around their Schoolies stay.