Leavers' celebrations look set to be the safest on record this year but there will still be plenty of room to have fun. The days of leavers wreaking serious havoc in Dunsborough and Rottnest are long gone, thanks largely to a hugely successful leavers strategy which started in the South West in 2005, following years of community frustration over the impact of an influx of drunken and unruly teenagers.
Since 2005, there has been a 90 per cent drop in the number of leavers arrested in Busselton and Dunsborough, and a 50 per cent drop in leavers-associated evictions from Rottnest.
Leavers WA manager Scott Bermingham said about 10,000 leavers were expected to head down south or to Rottnest this year.
The popularity of leavers' celebrations has grown over the past 15 years but the teenagers are now shepherded into the special Leavers' Zone, about 8km from Dunsborough, which is a huge carnival party, complete with rides and bands.
"The event has grown significantly in popularity since the late 1990s and is now regarded as one of the largest policed events outside the metropolitan area," Mr Bermingham said.
The strategy was introduced to reduce the impact of a huge influx of teenagers on small communities in the South West and Rottnest.
"One issue in particular was that school leavers travelling to Dunsborough and Rottnest did not have a dedicated leavers' area in which they could enjoy their celebrations," Mr Bermingham said. "Facilities in small communities are usually not designed to cater for thousands of visitors.
"Official celebrations ensure that leavers travelling to destinations such as Dunsborough and Rottnest Island are able to enjoy their celebrations in a way that provides a level of safety and security to both the leavers and the community in general."
Mr Bermingham said the $100 leavers' wristbands guaranteed access to the zone, and restricted partying to Year 12 students, avoiding problems with "toolies" or older students.
But he urged parents not to supply their children with alcohol before they left home, and to talk to their leaver about their plans before they went.
"Research shows that young people who drink alcohol in an unsupervised manner consume alcohol at more harmful levels," he said.
"History also shows that young people will purchase additional alcohol and end up consuming much more than parents will be aware of. The majority of school leavers will be under the age of 18 and not able to purchase or consume alcohol legally."
Police have also echoed Mr Bermingham's concerns, urging parents to be aware that supplying young people with liquor was highly dangerous and could result in fines up to $2000.
South West police have a high presence at leavers' celebrations in Dunsborough, and in some years had brought in mounted police to patrol the town centre.
South West Inspector Lyle Cubbage said police would use CCTV cameras on buses taking leavers to and from the Leavers' Zone, which would help keep leavers and the community safe.
He said police had worked to help ensure leavers' celebrations were better organised and better structured.
But he stressed that much work had gone into making leavers' week a safe environment for the bulk of teenagers."It is safe place," he said.
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