November 30th 2006
After Schoolies: "I was scared" says bus driver
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 magnetictimes.com, "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.
"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 magnetictimes.com, "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.
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 magnetictimes.com 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 magnetictimes.com, "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?
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