Schoolies chaperones for hire

Fun police: Naomi Oakley is offering a service to parents in which a welfare officer would travel with schoolies students to ensure their safety.
Fun police: Naomi Oakley is offering a service to parents in which a welfare officer would travel with schoolies students to ensure their safety. Photo: Eddie Jim

Apprehensive parents can buy some peace of mind.

Police officer turned youth safety expert Naomi Oakley was just another nervous parent when her teenage daughter was preparing for schoolies week a few years ago.

But parents now faced “a whole new ball game” as teenagers increasingly wanted to travel overseas to celebrate the end of school, Ms Oakley said.

"There are different issues with different cultures, issues with drink spiking, toolies or foolies who will try and sell them drugs, and even the activities are more dangerous," she said.

Red Frogs, which provides volunteer support services for schoolies revellers in Australia, has expanded its network to post about 60 people across Fiji and Bali this year.

For her part Ms Oakley has offered something a little different: personalised youth travel chaperones for hire.

They were not bodyguards, she said. The chaperone would work as a point person on the ground who could provide basic support to teenagers or help if they ran into trouble.

The idea is that they are discreet and only ever walking distance away, but do not interfere unless there is a problem.

Ms Oakley's U-Nome Security has managed safety at more than 600 youth events in Victoria and started developing services to target schoolies week last year based on the feedback she received from parents and teenagers.

“In some cases it might be cheaper to do schoolies overseas but it's a far more dangerous situation and parents are worried,” she said. “The destinations of choice are Bali, Thailand, Vanuatu and in some cases they're going to Fiji.”

The chaperones would be pulled from her existing youth welfare staff of about 30 former police officers, paramedics and ex-military personnel. Hiring a chaperone for a domestic schoolies destination such as Byron Bay or the Gold Coast would set parents back about $5000 to cover a group of 10 for the week, Ms Oakley said.

Another option for parents is the Party Survival Guide smartphone application, which has a global-positioning-system tracking function that allows parents to track their children's movements across the globe.

“The parent can actually track where they are at any time in 3D anywhere in the world,” Ms Oakley said.

Chelsea Walker, 20, who did her schoolies in Surfers Paradise in 2011, said she and her girlfriends received all the support they needed from the free Red Frogs service, but liked the idea of a chaperone for overseas.

"If we'd gone somewhere like Bali a chaperone would definitely be useful,” she said.

Meanwhile, in Victoria this year police and ambulance services are increasing patrols, urging schoolies to keep an eye on their friends and calling on parents to stay in regular contact with their children.

“Make sure that they know where they are and so that they're supported through the celebrations,” Inspector Lisa Hardeman said on Tuesday.

Police plan to extend patrols and run specific operations targeting schoolies safety on the Bass Coast, Surf Coast and the Mornington Peninsula.

Red Frogs' Mark Gellie said there would be 180 volunteers spread through Lorne, Torquay, Rye and Phillip Island over schoolies week. He said those planning to head overseas needed to have a safety plan in place and to familiarise themselves with the contact details of local emergency services.

“There just isn't those support services like we have here in Australia,” he said.

Red Frogs has urged parents and schoolies to check the details of their destination on smarttraveller.gov.au and make sure they have comprehensive travel insurance.

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