Support for the Red Frogs
While the word ‘‘schoolies’’ is commonly associated with a bunch of teenagers letting their hair down to celebrate the end of their time at secondary school, there is a group behind the scenes helping young party-goers in need.
Those people are the Red Frogs and they play a vital role across the country each November.
This year, four local residents — Bev Fisher, Emily Ryan, Annette Mustica and Chris Morehead from Cobram Riverside Church — ventured to Byron Bay to cook for the Red Frogs.
The crew was drafted after the Red Frogs contacted the church for help.
The church received substantial support from local businesses, including Haynes Butchery in Tocumwal which provided meat, avocados from the Big Strawberry, olive oil from Rich Glenn Estate, as well as potatoes and onions from KAF’s Fruit Supply.
Red Frogs started in 1997, when founder Andy Gourley, a youth pastor at the time, went to the Schoolies week on the Gold Coast with his skateboarding mates.
Mr Gourley saw a need for a designated sober person at the massive parties and so Red Frogs were born.
The name came about because each year volunteers hand out red frog Allen’s lollies.
In many ways, the frogs act as guardian angels for the scores of young adults who attend the week-long partying bonanza — many of whom are travelling independently for the first time.
The combination of alcohol, drugs and life inexperience jammed together can create dangerous situations and that’s exactly where the Red Frogs come into play.
They are peacemakers, a shoulder to cry on and a friend in times of need for people taking part in Schoolies.
Mrs Mustica, who enjoyed her first Schoolies experience, has a strong family connection to the volunteer group.
Her son Hayden is a location leader at Byron Bay and her daughter Hannah was a zone leader in Torquay this year.
She said the Red Frogs were invaluable in what could be a hostile environment at times.
‘‘They’re almost like the first port of call where the kids will ring them, sometimes before the police or ambulance because they are worried about getting into trouble,’’ Mrs Mustica said.
‘‘Once a call is made to the Red Frogs, they will then decide what emergency service needs to attend if required. They’re almost like a middle man between the kids and the emergency services.’’
Mrs Mustica said it was incredibly heartening to see a group of young people (who had paid for their own accommodation) help complete strangers.
‘‘It was really amazing to see all these young adults there just to serve the kids and have no judgement of them. I was in awe of what they were doing,’’ she said.
‘‘In Byron Bay for example, because the main drag is long, often the Red Frogs would be walking close to 15 km a night just to ensure the Schoolies got home safely. That kind of says it al,l I think.’’
Mrs Mustica said the whole experience painted a positive picture in her mind that Australia’s future was in good hands.
‘‘When I looked around and saw 85 young adults that we were cooking for, I thought ‘Australia’s in a pretty good place if these are the type of young adults we have coming through the ranks’.
‘‘It’s a fantastic initiative.’’
Happy cooks: Bev Fisher, Annette Mustica, Emily Ryan and Chris Morehead volunteered by cooking food for the 85 Red Frogs volunteers in Byron Bay.
Great idea: Red Frogs founder Andy Gourley and Byron Bay location leader Hayden Mustica.