Byron ready to keep schoolies safe
IN A FEW days as many as 10,000 schoolies will descend on Byron Bay to celebrate finishing year 12.
In an effort to keep the teens safe, the Byron Schoolies Hub will be open from this Friday and will remain open 24 hours a day for 18 days.
Hub co-ordinator Nicqui Yazdi estimated half the schoolies who came to Byron were under the age of 18.
Because they were unable to get into clubs and pubs many of them ended up drinking on beaches and in parks, Ms Yazdi said.
Police will have a high presence in Byron during schoolies and will set up a command centre at Main Beach.
Mounted police and police dogs will patrol the town and targeting fake identification and underage drinking.
Ms Yazdi said Byron did not try to attract schoolies.
"We want them to realise there is no big party in Byron like the Gold Coast. So the message is chill out, relax and enjoy the vibe."
One of the strategies developed by Byron Youth Services to help keep the schoolies safe is an initiative called blow zero.
Schoolies who blow a zero alcohol reading after 7pm for three nights in a row will be given a tie-dyed singlet marked Schoolies 2011.
Byron Youth Services who will be running the program at the hub and director Di Mahoney said blow zero was all about harm minimisation.
"By delaying their drinking it means they won't end up being so drunk late in the night. By then they will probably have left the beach, had a shower and some dinner and become more hydrated," she said.
Schoolies were often vulnerable because for many it would be the first time away from their parents.
Staff at the hub will be available to talk to schoolies about staying safe and many staff have received youth mental health first aid training.
"We talk to them about what they're drinking, how they're going to look after their mates and if they know where they're staying," she said.
The hub will be set up at Apex Park at Main Beach and will be staffed by 100 volunteers working in four-hour shifts.
The schoolies will be able to access water, first aid, tourist information and smiling locals to assist them.
Pancakes, chai and first aid will be at the hub every night, with a Police Command centre also in the park.