This so-called rite-of-passage – more like a week-long binge – sees hundreds arrested for serious assault, drunk and disorderly conduct, drug possession and obstructing police. Scarce resources are deployed to mop up the mess. Many girls suffer sexual violence.

Some families are left grieving the loss of a child who died at a schoolies event. Of course young people should be able to let off steam, have fun and say farewell after being together with the same people for over a decade. We want them to revel in freedom and new beginnings.But has the good wish to prove and redefine oneself, to grow and move on, turned into an empty, hollow and even toxic initiation? It appears that young people themselves think so. In fact most wish they’d never gone.

University of Wollongong research found seven out of 10 of teens attending rated the experience as negative.Why can’t we offer them something better? Provide incentives to participate in something affirming and positive, which won’t leave them with sadness and regret? Fortunately there are a number of alternatives already on offer which deserve more publicity so that next time girls like Scarlett will have healthy options.

Here’s a sample check in your area for other programs.• Schoolies RevolutionAn initiative of HopeBuilders International, this not-for-profit work to break the cycle of poverty. It “challenges young people to step out of their comfort zone and do something radical. By turning away from the traditional “schoolies” young people are given the opportunity to give back to world’s poor”. This year students helped build a school, visited slums, visited prisons and looked after orphans in Uganda.• Operation Timor-Leste Rotary Club of KerangKalamunda schools W.A join a team to engage in community building activities in a small East Timorese village.

The aim is to help young people think and act as global citizens, develop mutual cross cultural awareness and achieve personal challenges,• Shepparton Schoolies AlternativeStudents from a Lutheran College in Adelaide work with young refugees in Shepparton. The school hopes to strengthen and grow the connections with refugee communities.

via A tale of two schoolies | Melinda Tankard Reist.