November spelled the end of matriculation exams for high school leavers across Australia, and with it, the cultural rite of passage that marks the most significant youth event in the national calendar; ‘Schoolies’. The majority of ‘Schoolies’ typically venture to the Gold Coast or a select number of other Queensland destinations to celebrate their transition into the real world, where state, local Government authorities, and a volunteer organisations do a wonderful job in ensuring the safety of our youth. While others celebrate within their home state, other overseas destinations are becoming more popular.  Bali for example has been gaining popularity amongst high school graduates in recent years, with its affordability and close proximity to Australia having strong appeal. However, last month concerns around public safety and alcohol consumption at the schoolies hot spot was highlighted by one young Australian’s misadventure.

As Fairfax reported, 17-year-old Jasmine Baker was at Bounty nightclub in Kuta, drinking with friends on a Friday night when she began to suffer effects of what is suspected to be methanol poisoning. She was flown to a Darwin hospital the next morning, and while she was well enough to return home to the Central Coast after undergoing observation, others have not been so lucky. Methanol poisoning can result in blindness, brain damage and even death, as the fatality of Perth-based teenager Liam Davies showed earlier in the year. Davies was one of six Australians who were subject to methanol poisoning from consuming alcohol in Indonesia between 2011 and 2013.

Home-brewing spirits increases the amount of methanol in the spirit to a dangerous level, and taste-wise, the substance is undetectable. This is a significant concern for tourists to Indonesia who visit bars and clubs that might be trying to cut costs by home-brewing, and even substituting liquor contained in commercially-distilled, labelled bottles with their own potent, cheaper mix. The safest approach is to drink only from sealed bottles or cans in Indonesia, or better yet, not to drink at all if you’re under age! (The legal drinking age in Indonesia is 21).