With year 12 VCE exams wrapping up on Wednesday, and many students having already completed their final tests, celebrations to mark the end of 13 years of schooling are in full swing.
Thousands of year 12s will be heading for schoolies celebrations with some of the most popular destinations including the Gold Coast, Bali, Lorne and the Mornington Peninsula.
But with the celebrations come pitfalls - alcohol, drugs, dangerous driving, poor sexual choices and other issues.
Many Ballarat school leavers have heard from Leading Senior Constable Des Hudson whose community safety role sees him addressing year 12s about the pitfalls of schoolies celebrations.
The Alcohol and Drug Foundation has urged parents to arm their teenagers with the facts about alcohol and other drugs before they head away to celebrate.
"Parents should know that young people see them as credible sources of information," said ADF chief executive Dr Erin Lalor.
"Ideally you would start conversations about alcohol and other drugs while your child is still in primary school, as early as eight years old. But it's never too late," Dr Lalor added.
"Parents take the time to have 'the talk' about sex to give their children the knowledge to make good decisions. Having conversations about alcohol and other drugs - the 'other talk' - is important for the same reasons," she said.
headspace also offered advice for schoolies, urging them to have fun and make wise choices, but not push their bodies too hard.
"You are likely to be faced with new opportunities and decisions at schoolies. Don't do something because everyone else is doing it, especially if you know you will regret it after," they advised.
Senior Constable Hudson said it's important young people understand their surroundings, and are well informed about how to access emergency services or get help if they need it in a hurry.
"Over recent times it does seem to appear that the thrill of those hotspots like Byron Bay and the Gold Coast has somewhat dissipated with our local young people," he said.
"What we need to keep in mind is that these people need to be really mindful of basic safety principles.
"That's really about looking out for themselves, looking out for their mates and understanding what alcohol can do to people's decision making processes."
Some young people head overseas, with Bali becoming a hot-spot, but there are still risks.
21-year-old Katie Linane, from Ballarat, recently returned from a horror holiday with her friend - she said she suffered methanol poisoning after drinking a cocktail at a nightclub.
Methanol is highly toxic, and can appear in home-brewed alcohol, which is what Ms Linane suspects she had drunk.
The next morning, she and her friend were both unusually unwell.
"8am the next morning, I opened my eyes and I could not see properly, it was blurry, and that's abnormal for me," she said.
"I was dizzy, I had massive vertigo, and we were both swelling up a lot.
"It was awful, I thought I was going to die, I thought I was going to slip into a coma - it was really, really scary."
They went visited the hospital, and eventually resorting to drinking alcohol to counteract the methanol - a cure of last resort.
She said people visiting Bali should be careful drinking spirits, even at nightclubs - she recommended if people choose to drink spirits, they should only drink duty-free.
"Stick to Bin Tangs and Smirnoffs, don't drink the cocktails at all," she said.
"I'd also say, if you're travelling to Bali, go in a group."
Look after your friends. Don't leave your friends on their own. Help your friends stay away from risky situations. For each celebration (day or night) nominate someone who hasn't used alcohol or drugs to stay sober. Arrange a meeting point so if you do get separated from your friends, you know where to go. If you choose to use drugs, tell your friends what you have taken and how much. This makes it easier for the ambulance officers to help if you get into trouble.
Safe is sexy. At Schoolies, we may be more likely to be in situations where we are faced with sexual propositions and opportunities. Be prepared and carry condoms/dental dams. Think about what consent really is: Only yes means yes.
It is impossible to know what drug you are taking. To be completely safe, say no. If you choose to use any drug, try a little bit first to see if you have any side effects and so you can feel how strong the drug is and remember don't use anything whilst alone.
It is hot out there - watch out for heatstroke. The risk of dehydration and heat stroke is increased when we consume alcohol or drugs. Drink lots of water, wear sunscreen, rest and stay out of the sun.
Mixing can get messy. The effects of drugs can be unpredictable, but when mixed with alcohol can get out of control quickly.
Call 000 if anyone is passed out or in trouble. Paramedics don't need to involve the police.
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