Magnetic Island North Queensland
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November 30th 2006
After Schoolies: "I was scared" says bus driver

MI Bus Service driver Mick Priestly It seems that Schoolies Week, which finished last Friday evening was a great success with over 950 youngsters letting off steam and having the time of their lives. What happened afterwards was a different matter. Word has spread slowly about last Friday night but, in the words of Magnetic Island Bus Service Manager Jan Pranskunas, it was "complete anarchy".

According to Magnetic Island Police Constable Nathan Richards, between 50 and 100 young people were roaming the streets of Arcadia on Friday night with a number of liquor infringement tickets being issued, people "moved on" and one male charged for committing a Public Nuisance offence for urinating.

One bus driver, Mick Priestly, who had driven Schoolies all week without a problem, told, "I was scared. I took seven direct hits to my bus from rocks and bottles." Mr Priestly claimed that another driver had a rock half the size of a football come through a window. "It could have killed someone had there been a passenger," he said.

"The toolies (term used to describe those who follow Schoolies but are not school leavers) arrived on the 5.45pm ferry and were already drinking at the terminal. You could see there would be trouble," said Mr Priestly.

By 10pm Mick Priestly had stopped his bus on Marine Parade in Arcadia where, "There were about fifty kids in the area and, about four car lengths away and right in my headlights, I could see one kid raise a bottle and bring it down on another kid's head. The other kid just flopped to the ground and then the Schoolies just took to the bottle holder and the brawl moved across the road into the park.

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"I had to make a decision: whether to stop and help the kid on the ground. I had a bus full of kids. He was surrounded by kids and I saw a gap and drove through. I thought it was better to get to the police at Alma Bay but, as I drove through, the bottle throwing started. I heard loud bangs and glass smashing all from the other (park) side of the road.

"Then I copped other bottles around the News agency bus stop."

"There were police straight across the road looking at it but I think they were busy organising cars and most of their action was near Kooyong units where a kid copped a straight blast to the eyes from a fire extinguisher. But there were lots of outbreaks and other brawls going on."

Magnetic Island Bus Service Manager, Jan Pranskunas told, "We stopped the buses running after the 11.15pm service as we couldn't guarantee passenger safety and the police didn't want the kids moved elsewhere across the Island.

As is commonly the case it isn't the Schoolies themselves who are causing trouble but the so-called toolies who follow. According to Mick Priestly, The oldest of these were probably 19 or 20 and, he thought, probably included some of last year's schoolies.

While some Islanders have cooled considerably in their enthusiasm for Schoolies week it seems that much of the problem lies with the scheduling of the event which began on the previous Sunday afternoon and finished at 6pm on the Friday.

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Such scheduling is seen as likely to attract Schoolies and others for an unsupervised pre-Schoolies party weekend followed by another post-Schoolies weekend with more potential for trouble to follow. As one Schoolie, Jane, wrote to before the event began, "I think there should be some sort of activities on Friday and Saturday night as well or people won't have anywhere safe and fun to go to and there will be a lot of parties and things might happen."

Reflecting on Friday night, Magnetic Island Schoolies Organising Committee spokesperson Kaylene Major, told, "It was the opposite of the whole week" and commented that, "It confirms my thoughts that we should extend it (Saturday to Saturday) and it will be discussed at the (debrief) meeting on December 7."

Kay Major also made the point that, whether there is an organised Schoolies event on Magnetic or not, the Island will still attract school leavers at this time of year.

The week, which cost $17,000 to organise, included, according to Kay, "Many extra hours of volunteer time by the workers," and saw about $1M spent on Magnetic Island by the schoolies.

Clearly, Magnetic Island can benefit from Schoolies week and leave a great impression on these young and future-return holiday makers. But without planned, weekend activities who is surprised that 1000 teenagers on a Friday night, without activities, support and supervision are not going to run wild?

To make a comment see below

After Schoolies: "I was scared" says bus driver
Bruce Alexander Williams
December 1st 2006
Great sympathy and support for Mick Priestly and the Bus company. Drivers have heavy responsibilities and light authority. However the basic aims of Schoolies Week are sound. Magnetic Island has much to offer as a recreational playground for young people. Arguably, Schoolies Week has always been frought with all manner of unsuitable behaviour. I feel that the general concept is worthy of further "tweaking" in the hope that next time might be incident-free.
December 1st 2006
Geeze Bunny what a close call. I wounder if there was any undercover police to try and prevent this situation.
Dan O'Reilly-Rowe
December 3rd 2006
I'm a former resident of the island, now living far far way in New York City. If this sort of behaviour happened in New York it would be described as a riot. If this was a group of indigenous people on Palm Island there would be calls to ban alcohol, and it would be called a riot.

I love my home. I love the island. But the difference in how the violence of schoolies (overwhelmingly white youth) is covered in the media compared to the coverage of violence of aboriginal communities protesting police brutality is alarming.
December 3rd 2006
We really do need to provide some sort of cover/supervised activities on the weekends surrounding Schoolies week.It does seem to be the case that the schoolies, given enough to do, are generally reasonable and out to enjoy themselves, not to make trouble. By organising activities it is possible to exclude the 'toolies'- and the alcohol they bring with them.
The effort and planning put into schoolies week is tremendous for the limited number of volunteers who have been involved so far - the fact that schoolies week ran so smoothly with 950 kids instead of the expected 600 or so, is a real credit to the organisers. Can we expect them to organise another three days of activities, without an increase in numbers of volunteers? Maybe instead of sitting on our hands and saying "Isn't it awful?" a few more of us could become actively involved next year?

What do you think? Send us your comments.

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