Schoolies: My schooner for your smoothie


Could it be that adolescents and young adults are simply snubbing traditional notions of what constitutes risky behaviour? 

Many things that were once considered rebellious or countercultural in the past, like underage drinking, smoking or (gasp) drug-taking, are now fairly commercialised, or passé, diluting their original subversive nature. Just watch any episode of Euphoria to see what we’re talking about.

But not every graduate on the beaches of Byron Bay is harbouring a stubbie in their back pocket. Research (and first-hand experience) shows that Schoolies punters are taking it upon themselves to trade the schooners for smoothies, which is reflective of a broader decline in adolescent alcohol consumption globally.

In my five years of volunteering at Schoolies week, the shift in behaviour is noticeable and spreading. While it used to be “cool” to drink until blackout, with each new cohort comes a collective groan at the thought of wasting their nights (and mornings after) on a binge.

Slowly but surely, the act of not drinking has become more rebellious than drinking itself  – teenagers are pushing back against what their peers, parents or older siblings expect them to do at Schoolies week.

“Watching the media and news, you may think that lots of young people are using drugs. Research shows however that this is not entirely true [lots of young people are equally not using drugs]” says the Australian Department of Health. And various studies have found Gen Z are less likely than previous teenagers to fall pregnant or be in physical fights.

But it doesn’t mean that the kids are completely alright.

Although there is a clear downward trend around smoking, drinking and using illicit drugs, there’s equally a spike in engagement with other risky behaviours like dangerous selfies, uninformed sexting, truancy and vaping. So the appetite for risk taking is still prevalent.

They’re just not taking those risks in their parents’ footsteps.