Lifeguards hit beaches early
LIFEGUARDS are starting patrols early to cater for Byron Bay schoolies and are warning young people to stay out of the water after drinking or taking drugs.
Thousands of schoolies are expected to start pouring into Byron Bay today for the official start of schoolies celebrations and, for the first time, lifeguards will patrol beaches throughout the period.
Northern NSW lifeguard co-ordinator Scott McCartney said every year during schoolies, lifeguards rescued young people who were under the influence.
“It magnifies the risks intensely,” he said.
“The ocean is dangerous enough without alcohol or drugs in your system.”
Mr McCartney said swimming after a night out was especially risky.
“On a warm night when the nightclubs are closed and the parties over, many schoolies think it’s a good idea to jump in the water, but it’s actually one of the most dangerous things they can do,” he warned.
Early morning swims while still under the influence were also a bad idea, he said.
Mr McCartney said the red and yellow flags would go up on Monday morning and he urged all schoolies to swim at patrolled beaches only.
Meanwhile, Byron Bay’s schoolie hub will officially open today at Apex Park near Main Beach, providing information and support for end-of-school revellers.
A public information session will be held from 11am tomorrow for anyone with questions, concerns or a desire to help out at the hub.
Co-ordinator of the hub, Niqui Yazdi, said schoolies would be handed a wallet-sized brochure containing messages about safe sex, responsible drinking, respect for the town and local residents and a list of emergency contacts.
Condoms will be also available – an issue that has caused some controversy at Gold Coast schoolies.
A Gold Coast MP this week suggested that handing out condoms to schoolies was encouraging them to have sex with strangers.
But Ms Yazdi said condoms were a matter of health and safety, not morals.
There had been huge rises across Australia in the rates of STDs such as chlamydia in recent years, and it was especially important to encourage young people to protect themselves, she said.
There are reportedly more than 500 unplanned pregnancies that result from schoolies celebrations each year.