The mystery of Schoolies and the “wipe-out”.
I thought I knew that our liquor selling licensing laws and businesses were seen by many in the world as pretty antiquated. I suppose it might well explain much of why so many young go well over the limit once unshackled from the final years at school and seek to wipe themselves out during the cultural phenomenon known as ‘The Schoolies.’ The ‘Schoolies’ is a three week festival whereby the year twelve students celebrate their final year at school. Perhaps, the prohibition is still lingering on here in Aussi-land and it all breaks loose during Schoolies..
I don’t quite know the origins of it or what the background of this festival is but I don’t think it has anything to do with Brazilian Carnival or running of the Spanish bulls or similar foreign carnivals. I can’t remember ever having experienced those year twelve festivals. I never went through year twelve. Perhaps that explains it.
There are curious contradictions in our alcohol beverage consumption. We are not exactly shy when it comes to getting full or even totally blotto pissed. Ok, it might not be proper here in The Southern Highlands to be seen pickled but even here not too many would point a finger at you if one occasionally did a Bazza McKenzie stained glass picture show in the taxi forgetting to wind down the window. Yet, to actually get the stuff, you have to go to specially licensed outlets.
The most curious outlets are our supermarkets. Things have finally been allowed to sell grog at supermarkets but the actual selling point still needs you to go to a separate outlet. I mean you still can’t buy butter or a long neck at the same time and at the same counter. However, here in Bowral the separation of grog and groceries have taken a small step forward in our Aldi store. You can buy butter and booze at the same counter. Amazing progress! It is ONLY allowed at counter nr 5. You can’t do it at the other counters and there are signs on the trolley (lockable and deposit paying progressive innovation, Euro inspired), warning you, that only at counter 5 you can buy butter, wine, beer and prawns.
God knows how the Aldi lawyers must have been tortured through dealing with the ‘licensing police or board’. How ‘counter 5’ was given a license must rank as one of the most significant battles won with our licensing laws. To buy the stuff, one has to still be 18 and only in approved points of sale. Cash register 5 is now a licensed venue for the sale of alcohol. Hoorah!
I remember as if yesterday buying a bottle of sherry for my mum and dad at Christmas time when still in Holland at age 12 or 13. I bought is at the grocery store but could also have bought it at the fruit and veggie shop. Even today, you can buy a Heineken or a latte in the train or at the rail station or at the newsagent.
I can’t imagine what the consequences would be if you could buy a can of beer on a train between Sydney’s Central station and Parramatta. I guess all hell would break loose and you can’t open train windows anymore either. Nor are trains provided with toilets. We must have camel-like bladders.
When I queued at the nr 5 Aldi counter with my peanut-butter and a fine pinot I remarked about the oddness of only being able to buy liquor at counter nr 5. A stern looking lady behind me stated; “that’s because only people above the age of 18 are allowed to serve at this counter.” Somewhat flummoxed, I looked at all the Aldi staff and remarked that most of them would be over 18 and asked, not unreasonably I thought, what would happen if my grandson of 10 was helping me packing the pinot back into the trolley. I further asked what would happen if wine was also sold at cash register 1,2,3 or even 4? The stern lady rebuked me and said firmly;” well, that’s the law” and shut down the conversation by giving me a long and hard stare. She obviously thought I was a heathen and an alcoholic. I thought that logic wasn’t very forthcoming from her yet and decided to just buy my stuff and shut up, give it some more thought in the privacy of my car.
It is strange though. Binge drinking here, especially amongst teenager is a serious problem and many a future alcoholic must be in the making during those much accepted Schoolies. Yet, the availability of alcohol is so much more restricted.
So, why is it that in countries such as Italy or France where alcohol can be bought by anyone at almost all shops, day and night; yet, binge drinking is far less prominent? Alcohol is often consumed around the dining table with food and conversation. Getting inebriated in countries with unrestricted access is rarer and certainly much more stigmatized than in Australia were selling of alcohol is much more restricted at licensed premises and only to those above the age of 18.
Why is that so?