Council will no longer lead Schoolies program after 20 years
It is the end of an era as the Whitsunday Regional Council has voted to step back from its Schoolies program in Airlie Beach.
While Schoolies will still be able to venture to the Whitsundays and enjoy the sights (and drinking holes) on offer, the council has also left the door open for another organisation to continue running the program.
The Whitsunday Schoolies Safety Response Program has been running in Airlie Beach since November 1999, but was cancelled last year because of COVID-19.
At the council meeting this week, council's community services director Julie Wright said last year up to 300 school leavers still ventured to the region and there were only two arrested over seven days.
Numbers of school leavers were about 550 less than the previous year.
Ms Wright said it was significant many school leavers would now be 18 years old so they could venture to pubs, clubs and do other activities.
"Whilst the safety program as we know it will dissolve there's still plenty of activities for school leavers to come to the area and participate in," she said.
"Council will continue to provide some financial support towards the safety messaging program for the next few years.
"Council are not preventing another agency or organisation from leaving a school leavers' program, we are just taking a step back as the lead agency."
Mayor Andrew Willcox said while the program would not be running, the Whitsundays was still open for business.
"We are still encouraging when the kids finish school, as free and independent travellers, to come to Whitsundays and have their holiday and have a really good time," Cr Willcox said.
"I don't think it's the end, it's just the beginning of a new chapter."
Division 1 councillor Jan Clifford said she had mixed feelings about the decision, as she was the chair of the Whitsunday Schoolies Advisory Committee.
"One of the things I love doing is Schoolies and being with the young people, they're a great bunch," Cr Clifford said.
"I'd like to thank the rest of the committee and everybody else who's been involved in Schoolies since I've been here since 2008.
"They've done a wonderful job of keeping our young people safe and providing a wonderful environment."
Councillors unanimously voted to relinquish its role as the lead agency of the Whitsunday Schoolies 7 Day Safety Response Program.
This also involved putting $34,000 in trust to be used for ongoing safety messaging programs until the funds run out.
Councillors also acknowledged and thanked the Whitsunday Schoolies Advisory Committee and volunteers for their help with the program over the years.