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Schoolies Festival Origin Story

Celebrating 25 Years

Schoolies Festival™

How The Story Happened

In 1999, Encounter Youth began coordinating a community response to encourage school leavers to party safely and minimise the impact on the local Victor Harbor community. What began as a chaotic mass gathering has been transformed into a structured and organised three-day event known today as Schoolies Festival™.

Discover the origin story of the Schoolies Festival™ through eight newspaper articles from November 1997 to November 1999 below…

27 November 1997

SF Origins

By 1997, the annual influx of unmanaged school leavers in Victor Harbor was taking its toll on the local community. A local newspaper reported public damage, vandalism, break-ins, and the usual spate of stolen wheelie bins, damaged letterboxes and all-hour noisy parties.

The lives and wellbeing of the school leavers themselves were also under threat, especially young women, with reports of alcohol-related harm, violence, assault, indecent assault and gross indecency, as an older group exploited those celebrating their end of school years.

19 February 1998

SF Origins

By early 1998, a local newspaper recalled the upheaval caused the previous November:

…[the paper] was even inundated by complaints from residents about neighbours’ houses playing host to parties involving several hundred people not on just one night but, in at least one case, on four consecutive nights and mornings.”

The paper reported that a committee had been formed to try to organise a managed response to the school leavers expected to descend on the area at the end of the year.

5 March 1998

SF Origins

Two weeks later, the paper reported that…

…a formal ‘schoolies’ festival is likely to be held at Victor Harbor in November this year, following support for the proposal at a public meeting last Saturday.”

Local residents’ hopes were high.

26 November 1998

SF Origins

Alas! As school leavers arrived in Victor Harbor on mass to celebrate the end of their school career, the newspaper reported,

What a pity that the mooted Schoolies’ Festival for Victor Harbor failed to get off the ground!”

Without sufficient local support, all hopes were dashed. Residents were again left to wonder from where a solution would hail.

3 December 1998

SF Origins

Without an organised response to the school leavers, chaos again reigned and the local community bore the brunt of it. As one local resident told the newspaper,

…the youths wandering the streets were rowdy and had no thought for other people in the area. They trampled on gardens and urinated everywhere … Later in the night they set off fire crackers, started a fire and made a real nuisance of themselves … My mother who is nearly 90 lives up the road from me and she was petrified.”

26 August 1999

SF Origins

By August the following year, there was renewed hope. Local support, including from the pastor of Victor Harbor Lutheran Church named Michael Parker, had grown stronger.

With much still to do, the newspaper reported, more in hope than certainty, that…

…a festival for schoolies at Victor Harbor is aimed at reducing the negative impact the impact of school leavers has on Victor Harbor each year.”

16 September 1999

SF Origins

When SA Police put out a wider call for help, a Christian group from Flinders Uni, headed by a pastor on the campus named Frank Ahlin, responded. Finally, the proposal had the necessary peoplepower to pull off the massive undertaking.

The newspaper reported that…

Victor Harbor Council support has been offered to the organisers of Victor Harbor’s inaugural Schoolies Week Festival.”

It was a go!


25 November 1999

SF Origins

On 25 November 1999, the newspaper ecstatically reported that…

…the first annual Victor Harbor ‘Schoolies Week Festival’ has been hailed a success by organisers and received the thumbs up from police and the local community.”

Senior Sergeant Trevor Hentschke from the Victor Harbor Police explained,

We haven’t had the reports of groups of youths partying in inappropriate places such as private dwellings … The kids have certainly  taken advantage of Warland Reserve as a meeting area and that means less impact on the community and less anxiety for people in residential areas.”

In the hustle and bustle of that inaugural Schoolies Festival™, Encounter Youth was born from those first brave volunteers.

25 Years Later…

We’re still at it! Again, we’re in the thick of planning this year’s Schoolies Festival™.

Every year, we train and mobilise hundreds of volunteers from churches all around South Australia to host Australia’s safest event for school leavers celebrating the end of their school career.

Special Thanks

A special thank you to the council staff at the City of Victor Habor for digging up the above articles.

Get Involved Today!

Would you like to be part of the next chapter of this exciting twenty-five-year-old story?

There are several ways to participate.

Hindley Street Program

Volunteer on Hindley Street!

Schoolies Operation

Volunteer at Schoolies Operation!

Impact Partner

Become an Impact Partner!