This paper reports on the findings from a qualitative research study that explored how young people prepared to minimise and/or avoid alcohol-related harm while attending a Schoolies Festival (SF). SFs are mass gatherings at which young people (schoolies) celebrate their graduation from high school. The attendance of schoolies, in various Australian communities, ranges between 10000 and 30000 individuals during the event. The literature suggests that schoolies are at higher than normal risk of harm at SF from misuse of alcohol, unsafe sex, aggressive behaviour, and other risk-taking factors. As a result of these concerns, SF organisers developed an infrastructure that treats alcohol-related harm, and provides on-site care (first aid stations) by St John Ambulance staff. This study used focus groups to identify strategies used by schoolies to avoid alcohol-related harm during SFs. Data revealed that schoolies did not actively seek health information before attending the event and did not display an interest in doing so. It is important to note that schoolies planned to use alcohol to celebrate and have a good time. Therefore a harm minimisation approach with a focus on providing the necessary infrastructure at SFs to minimise the dangers associated with excess alcohol use is important. Schoolies indicated that they had no desire for information about the hazards of alcohol ingestion. If any health messages were to be used by health authorities, it would be far more appropriate to promote the message of 'take care of your mate', to contribute to building a supportive environment at the event. This may be of more benefit to minimise harm at SFs than funding other health messages.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Policy
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health