This time next week Torquay and Lorne will be flooded with Schoolies. Thankfully, Red Frog Australia volunteers will be on hand to help keep them safe. As the parent of two teenagers I was keen to find out more, and talked to ex-Belmont High student Mark Gellie who brought this initiative to Victoria 15 years ago along with a group of Geelong friends.
‘Red Frog was born in 1997 when Andy Gourley, a youth pastor, and his skateboarding mates hit Schoolies on the Gold Coast and realised there was a need for a designated sober person at these huge parties. We are named after the bag of Allen’s Red Frogs that Andy used as an icebreaker- it didn’t take long to realise the party-goers loved these!
‘My friends and I saw a need for Red Frog teams in our local area. Now Geelong supplies the biggest volume of volunteers from any regional town and even travel to Bali.
‘The Schoolies can call anytime over the week requesting all kinds of stuff- if they have drunk too much or experimented with drugs, if they need someone to walk them home, provide a cook up or a lift. I recall one funny incident when late one night a guy, who’d obviously had a bit to drink, rang for a lift home and in the background I heard ‘Get off the phone mate, you’re already at home.’
‘We also provide stations where they can get hot drinks or just cool off.
‘The message we try to get out to the families is to check in with their kids throughout the week. Send them with more than a boot of grog, for every slab of alcohol give them a slab of water and plenty of food. Our volunteers also travel to hundreds of High Schools to spread the message to the kids.
‘It is a team effort to keep the young people safe. There are lots of stakeholders like the Vic Police, ambos and accommodation providers- for instance the Mantra in Lorne has been outstanding. Greg McCann, who has been with Red Frog for 10 years, is the Victorian coordinator.
‘The Surf Coast Shire are very supportive and provide a bus service, local churches help subsidise us and the wider Geelong community also helps out. The ‘Red Frog Crew’, as they are referred to, are young themselves (mainly 18-22) and are better able to relate to the Schoolies.’
http://au.redfrogs.com/ Red Frog welcomes volunteers. www.facebook.com/redfrogsau/ This Australian initiative now helps not only Schoolies but also Uni parties, festival-goers, event managers, sporting groups and musicians as far away as Canada, South Africa, UK and Poland.
Telephone 1300 557123.