Schoolies is the largest youth mass gathering in Australia. An estimated 36% of Australian school leavers participate in some kind of Schoolies event each year, involving approximately 60,000 young people aged 17 and 18, who gather at locations around Australia to celebrate the end of secondary school. However, Schoolies celebrations present significant regulatory challenges for police, health, and other service providers; and involve risks to public safety and property for attendees and the local community. In this talk I will provide some highlights from a five-year research collaboration between UQ, ANU and the Queensland Government into the psychological dynamics of the Schoolies experience. Extending beyond operational data, the project has tracked attendees’ risk-taking, help seeking, and perceptions of police and other services across multiple cohorts of young people using in situ and online survey methods. The research responds to the urgent need to advance understanding of mass gatherings, and supports the development of evidence-based solutions for local partners that regulate and service this complex event.

Presenter biography

Dr Laura Ferris is a researcher and psychologist at the School of Psychology, University of Queensland. Her research combines social psychology, clinical psychology, and research-to-practice translation. In particular, Dr Ferris investigates psychological functioning in the context of challenging environments; the social psychology of pain and suffering; service responses to suicide crisis; clinical insight in high secure forensic populations; and group dynamics in the context of emotionally-intense mass gatherings such as protests, festivals, and cold water swims. She also has a background in law and justice policy, and postgraduate training in governance and public policy.


Sir Gerard Brennan boardroom
Level 3, Forgan Smith building
The University of Queensland
St Lucia campus