June 23, 2011
At the recent forum about young people’s dreams for Alice Springs, a schoolgirl asked what could be done about underage drinking. She said that she knew of students leaving classes to go home for a few beers, describing it as “ridiculous”. She later agreed to speak to the Alice Springs News in more detail about drinking among her peers.
Her name is Mikaela Simpson (pictured above). She is 17 years old, a confident, motivated Year 12 student at Centralian College and boarding at St Philip’s as her mother works out bush.
She says almost every time she goes out, which she does with her mother’s permission, she witnesses a fight and it’s not only the guys – girls are getting involved as well.
“Ninety-eight percent of the time they’re extremely intoxicated,” she says. “Their egos get so big and you only have to look at someone the wrong way and it’s on.”
She camped overnight by the racetrack on the recent Finke weekend. In the morning as she was putting her swag into a car to go home, a fight erupted between a carload of girls and a carload of guys. Most had been drinking the night before and one guy in particular was still really drunk. As insults flew between the two groups, he began hitting the girls’ car, screaming and swearing. One of the girls was egging him on and eventually spilled some of her Coke on him. This sent him off the deep end and he ended up smashing the windscreen of the girl’s car.
The Finke weekend wasn’t exceptional. On any ordinary weekend a lot of people will say they are going out to get drunk, says Mikaela. If they’re underage, usually an older friend buys the grog for them (there’s a lot of socialising between different age groups). She also says some parents are open to the idea of teenagers drinking: “They understand that some are responsible and know how to do the right thing.”
Are her peers paying for their alcohol themselves?
“The majority of the time, yes. They work to earn their money or sometimes friends buy it for other friends or even parents pay for it.”
What’s the drink of preference?
“Anything and everything. Everyone’s different when it comes to drinking, but the majority are drinking spirits like vodka, Bundy, or Jack Daniels etc.”
She says at parties, it’s a regular sight to see people throwing up, falling over, starting “unwanted business”.
Does she mean sex?
No, she means fighting and “making a mess of themselves”. This is the worst consequence of drinking, she feels: girls getting hit by guys, guys passing out either because they’re so drunk or have been hit, girls or guys having car accidents because they’re drunk.
She’s never seen her friends in a situation of having unwanted sex.
Is that because the girls are strong about what they want?
“It goes both ways. If a girl doesn’t want it, she knows to speak up, and a lot of guys know that ‘no’ means ‘no’.”
Although she’s concerned about underage drinking, Mikaela also does it. She says she had her first drink in Year Nine but it was not until about halfway through Year 10 that she began regularly having a drink at parties. She says she sometimes gets drunk, though only if there’s a friend who’s going to take care of her (and definitely not if she’s going back to the boarding house).
Drinking amongst young people is simply a “fact of life”, she says. She doesn’t think it can be stopped, but “there are probably steps that can be taken to minimise it”.
She’s not thinking about restrictions, but rather about other forms of fun. As is frequently heard from young locals, she’d like there to be a lot more underage gigs. She doesn’t only mean big bands from interstate. She says there are quite a few local bands and young people enjoy watching their friends play. It would be a good alternative to sitting around in a house, getting drunk, which “gets boring after a while”.
As long as adults drink, younger people will, says Mikaela.
“You see older people doing something and you think that’s what I’m going to do. And if you took alcohol off the shelf then people would find some other substance.”
She thinks maturity is the best cure. Even amongst her peers, she can see the dawning of a realisation that there are better things to do with their time.
Note: The Alice News has published this report with the consent of Mikaela’s mother.