Thousands of schoolchildren descend on the shores of gold and sun

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Thousands of school leavers have descended on the Golden and Sunshine Coasts as unofficial school celebrations begin across the state for Queensland’s Grade 12 cohort.

This year’s high school cohort has had a particularly troubled year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with many formals canceled and much of their home schooling study locked out.

When the state’s health director canceled formal celebrations for schools on the Gold Coast, many graduates chose to travel to other coastal areas or hold their own private gatherings at home.

Kalani Ripley, 18, of Miami High on the Gold Coast is one of 80 students in his cohort to travel to the Sunshine Coast, where he and five friends plan to stay in an apartment.

He said the class of 2020 had a lot of pent-up stress that they would look to release in the coming weeks with “a few pub crawls” planned.

“I think it’s been one of the most stressful years as a cohort and for the rest of Grade 12 in Queensland it’s been a lot more stressful than any other year in a long time so I think that there is a lot more stress relief. to do, ”he says.

“There is a feeling of ‘wow we’re finally done’ but [school] isn’t finished until December 19 when we get our final results.

The end of an eventful year

Kalani said the stress of making their final year of school during a global pandemic was compounded by the fact that the class of 2020 was the guinea pigs of an education overhaul.

Miami High School graduate Kalani Ripley said this year’s school leavers deserve to let go. Photo; TBEN News / Olivia Day

“We were the first 7 years, we were the first original preparations, we were the first with the new ATAR system,” he said.

“It was a lot of stress – we were the dummies on the test and it impacted us, but the class of 2020 is extremely resilient.

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“At the end of the day we are young and allowed to let our hair down and enjoying this little time in our lives is very important because you only get it once and we have a little fun.

Kalani said overseas getaways had become increasingly popular with former students who left school, but travel bans meant Bali was out of place.

“The thinking of schoolchildren is changing from the Gold Coast to the wider Queensland,” he said.

“It definitely changed the general consensus on where to go and I think it will change that in the future as well.”

‘The generation of guinea pigs’

At Sunnybank State High School, very few Grade 12 students participated in the traditional celebrations of schools on the Gold Coast.

Monica Vu (R) marks the end of the senior year with a private reunion of friends and family. Photo: TBEN News / Anna Hartley

Monica Vu held back tears as she stepped out of the school hall for the last time on Friday.

“We are the guinea pigs with Year 7 and ATAR, we thought 2020 was our year but it was hectic. We persevered and we graduated, ”she said.

“We’re going to be celebrating with friends and family at home… then I’ll have a year off because that year almost killed me.

School leavers Alex Neish (L), Tamalia Williams and Paige Simpson (R) jumped into the ocean in Noosa after completing their senior year. Photo: TBEN News / Owen Jacques

On Friday, on the Sunshine Coast, students from Noosa District State High School rushed out of the school gate and plunged into the ocean, marking the end of last year.

As authorities prepared for 5,000 school-leavers to descend on this popular tourist spot, many local teens chose to set off, instead to Fraser Island, Teewah and Rainbow Beach.

The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service confirmed that 1,540 people were camping this weekend in the northern Sunshine Coast.

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The ministry expressed concern about the campfires on Fraser Island, where large swathes of the bush have been burning for more than a month.

Specialized police units called

Police in the Wide Bay area have expressed particular concern about the influx of inexperienced drivers to Queensland beaches, given the recent spate of fatal four-wheel drive crashes.

“We had a fatal traffic accident there and a number of serious traffic accidents,” Inspector Pat Swindells said.

“We just want to make sure that everyone [who] go up there have a good time and come home.

He said police would patrol the beach to help young drivers if their vehicles got stuck.

Sunshine Coast Superintendent Jason Overland said specialized Brisbane units, such as the Mounted Police, had been called in to help with the police response.

“We grew when we realized the Sunshine Coast was a destination for school leavers,” he said.

The Noosa ambulance station said secluded beaches can be difficult to access for emergency services, but paramedics have been trained in four-wheel drive.

He said helicopter service would be available to answer emergency calls and reminded revelers that drugs, alcohol and hot temperatures don’t mix well.

On the Gold Coast, Queensland Police said they were unsure how many revelers will be celebrating on the tourist strip, but have allocated the same resources as last year’s event, with 200 police officers on patrol from of this weekend.

Gold Coast Police Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler has urged Queensland schools to comply with COVID-19 rules. Photo: TBEN News / Bern Young

Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said police would target drug-related activity, anti-social behavior and gatherings in housing.

“People who control short-term accommodation, so the person who booked that accommodation, should be very aware that they only have the capacity allowed in that room,” he said.

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“There is a fine of $ 1,334 if you violate this directive from the Chief Health Officer.”

Under the relaxed restrictions that took effect on Tuesday, gatherings in homes and public spaces increased from 40 to 50 people.

“If you’re going to stack a small room with 50 people, that would be a problem – we would look at the footage from that room,” Superintendent Wheeler said.

“We ask people to use common sense because ultimately all of these rules are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

‘Pay attention to your friends’

Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) and Gold Coast Health operate a temporary emergency treatment center in a Surfers Paradise car park, which will be open from 9am to 2am.

Grace Elliott, senior operations supervisor for QAS, said this year’s celebrations were different from previous years due to the pandemic.

“We had to adjust our strategy, but at the end of the day we are providing pre-hospital service to the young people who are leaving school this year on the Gold Coast,” she said.

On a typical night during the school week in previous years, up to 80 adolescents were treated on site.

“Whether a lot of young dropouts choose to come here and celebrate the Gold Coast or not a lot at all, we’ll be ready,” Ms. Elliott said.

“Our message will always be this: If you need help, especially in a medical emergency, please call Triple-Zero, watch out for your friends and be safe.”

Emergency consultant Dr Jeffrey Hooper said the treatment center will also focus on mental well-being.

“It was a really stressful year for the 12th grade students, it was a year like no other for them,” said Dr. Hooper.

“We have a consultant psychiatrist and some people from our emergency psychiatric ward, we also have a social worker on site.”

-TBEN