Red Frogs help schoolies
THEY’RE the unsung heroes of schoolies celebrations.
They’ll pick you up if you fall down drunk, talk you through your relationship dramas, help you clean your hotel room and even cook you breakfast in bed.
They’re known as the Red Frogs and schoolies in Byron Bay love them. “It makes you feel protected and safe having them around,” said schoolie Ruhi Malhatra, of Sydney.
Ruhi and her friends have called on the frogs several times during their stay in Byron Bay – one night they called an ambulance for a friend who’d drunk too much, another time they cooked the girls pancakes at their accommodation and helped them tidy up.
Nothing seems to be too much trouble for the frogs volunteers, who are aged 18 to 25 and drawn from churches of various denominations.
The Brisbane-based founder of the Red Frogs, Andy Gourley, started the group 13 years ago after a trip to the Gold Coast with some school leavers. There are now 1300 Red Frogs Australia-wide during schoolies, and about 150 of these have been based in Byron Bay this year.
Mr Gourley said the hardest thing about the Red Frogs’ work was coming up against the Australia drinking culture.
“Unfortunately, there’s so much pressure in our culture that you have to drink,” he said.
“You drink to get smashed, wake up with peas and corn all over your shirt and you’re a legend.”
Mr Gourley said binge-drinking was at the centre of many schoolies dramas, such as unplanned pregnancies and drug use.
Incidents such as this week’s alleged sexual assault of a schoolie at Main Beach were also difficult, he said.
“We play a secondary support role in these kinds of situations,” he said. “We support friends and associates because it’s not just the victim who is affected. And a lot of the time schoolies are away from friends and family.”
But there were plenty of upsides to being a Red Frog.
“You walk out in a Red Frog shirt and it’s like you’ve won Australian Idol. You get so many high fives and shout outs from schoolies,” he said. “And it’s an honour to be looking after the future leaders of Australia.”
This is the final weekend of official schoolies celebrations in Byron Bay.