Byron battens down for schoolies week
By MARY MANN AND MEGAN KINNINMENT
Police make extra patrols and issue packs for safe partying
THE sandwiches are big and the people are friendly at Byron Bay.
That's why Rachael Henderson, of Sydney, and three of her friends decided to celebrate schoolies in Byron.
Last night was the official beginning of the schoolies festival: an event that excites young people and sends cold shivers of fear up parents' spines.
"I really like the beaches here, and people are a lot friendlier than they are in Sydney or the Gold Coast," said Rachael, 18.
"We've seen a lot of things in Byron that we wouldn't see in Sydney, like the size of sandwiches; they're huge!"
Rachael and her friends Katrina Kastanias, 17, Alison Booth, 17, and Annika Pol, 17, said they were staying at Belongil Beach for about three weeks.
"Most of us are under-age, so we will just be enjoying the beach, watching movies and going to house parties," said Katrina.
"We weren't really interested in going to the Gold Coast because it seems more dangerous.
"Our parents were a bit worried about us coming to Byron because of what recently happened with Rex Hunt and some youths, but they decided that Byron was probably still the safest place for us to go," she said.
Inspector Owen King from Byron/Tweed area command said there would be extra police patrolling the streets of Byron Bay during the schoolies season and urged parents to take advantage of safe partying kits available from local police stations.
"We provide safe party packs to anyone who requests them," Insp King said.
Local Youth services are also preparing themselves for the silly season.
Byron Youth Activities Centre co-ordinator Paul Spooner said the youth service had programs in place to help young people stay safe during the end-of-year celebrations.
"We have responded specifically to schoolies by sending out Street Cruise workers on Friday and Saturday nights," Mr Spooner said.
The Street Cruise youth workers are also making a presentation on safe partying at one of Byron Bay's schoolie accommodation venues, Byron Central Apartments.
Byron Central Apartments manager Scott Wanchap said he felt a responsibility to warn the 120 young people he hosted, especially female schoolies, of the dangers inherent in partying at Byron Bay.
The young tourists are given power-point presentations by drug and education counsellors from INTRA, the street cruise team and the Northern Rivers Sexual As- sault Service.