making a splash
School leavers raved, revelled and rocked this week, celebrating the end of a tumultuous year at the only official Leavers celebration in the country.
It was a year of firsts with a record 9000 registrations, a huge 20,000sqm entertainment zone, and huge numbers of police patrolling the Capes region.
Despite a few admissions to hospital on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, graduate Olivia Nolan said the week was a “great experience”.
“It’s been a very emotional year, but my friendships have grown massively because of everything that has happened. It’s definitely had its ups and downs,” the St Mary’s Anglican Girls School leaver said.
“Its been nice to have time to rest and relax and not think about what’s next.”
While unsanctioned schoolies celebrations went ahead in NSW and Queensland, COVID-free WA was the only place in Australia where official festivities took place.
With Bali and other international destinations off the table, police saw record-breaking numbers of graduates streaming into Busselton and Dunsborough, and Ms Nolan commended their work throughout leavers week.
“They’ve been so loving, generous and willing to help — it’s been an amazing experience,” she said.
The week was organised in a record 50 days due to the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions.
The Red Frogs safety crew also reported record-breaking numbers as the team received more than 250 requests for pancakes from party-goers.
LeaversWA project manager Clint Browning said this year’s entertainment zone was one-third bigger than in previous years for the leavers to dance their COVID blues away.
“This week we’ve been achieving our goal, which is to keep the leavers and community safe,” Mr Browning said.
WA Year 12s enjoyed a mostly uninterrupted year, returning to classroom learning in Term 2, unlike students in parts of the country more severely affected by COVID-19, who also missed out on rites of passage including school balls.
“This year’s group are a resilient cohort and have displayed incredible patience as support services navigate unique challenges,” Red Frogs WA State director Hayden Glass said.
But things got off to a slightly shaky start at the beginning of Leavers Week in both Busselton and Dunsborough, with some leavers left to line up for seven hours to register as temperatures nudged 30C.
A number of school leavers passed out while in line before Bunnings staff turned up to shade the sun-exposed teens and Red Frogs volunteers set up water and sunscreen stations.
Busselton mother Kerenda Keogh reported last year her children had experienced a similar scenario, saying no changes had been implemented for this year’s event.
“It’s getting bigger and bigger every year and I think there needs to be an alternative way to do it,” she said.
Comments on Facebook included one by leaver Anna Roger, who said she waited in the Busselton line for five hours and saw four people faint from heatstroke.
Busselton mother Debbie McEwan Loy had a similar report and said her son was waiting at 7.30am and was still in line at 1.15pm.
Mr Browning said the registration process would “certainly be reviewed”.
“The reason the processing times increased was because of the COVID compliance measures we needed to implement at the very last minute to ensure the safety of the kids and the community,” he said.
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