Partying safely at the Festival of Autonomy

It’s that time of year again, when the weather is just about to get that little bit warmer, you’re cruising into second semester, and most importantly you’re about to celebrate the hell out of Autonomy. For those new students not in the know, or those more seasoned students who just didn’t really ask questions about why campus seems to go a little nuts at the beginning of August, the Festival of Autonomy celebrates when the University of Newcastle was finally able to cut ties with those pesky big smoke kids at UNSW and it culminates in a party at Bar on the Hill. It’s all about Newy pride after all. This is most definitely something to celebrate, but the last thing you want is to be that guy who’s passed out by 11am at Autonomy Party or, on a more serious note, get yourself into some serious trouble. Believe it or not, there is many a way to party safely without being what Courtney Barnett would call a Debbie Downer. So whether you wanna go out, or wanna stay home, here are some tips on how to party safely at Autonomy Party thanks to the University’s online counsellor Richard Thorpe.

Why is it so important for students to party safely?

It’s incredibly important to remember that partying safely doesn’t have to mean being the fun police. It is, however, about looking after your mates and yourself! “A fun social life, and making lots of new friends is an integral part of that development, and students will optimise their time at uni by engaging healthily in both study and social life. However, when partying becomes excessive and unsafe, it can have an extremely destructive effect on our studies and often our close relationships too,” says Richard. As Mufasa says, it’s really all about the delicate balance. Column A and Column B. Moderation and self-care are important as well.

Many students see these types of articles and immediately think ‘fun police’. What are your thoughts on this?

“I’d like to think of this type of article as being more of a ‘fun coach’, with the intention of maximising fun and minimising illness,” says Richard. Like I said, you don’t have to walk around counting up the calories in every vodka water you’re having. Have a good time, enjoy yourself! But, check yourself before you wreck yourself and as Richard says, “A bad trip, passing out, vomiting, hangovers, overdosing, having your stomach pumped at emergency, permanent brain damage, or death, are not particularly fun for anyone involved.”

Why is it so important to ‘look after your mates’?

This is probably the most important thing to remember. Always, always, always be the Neville Longbottom in the scenario! But instead of winning the house cup, you might just save someone’s life. As Richard says, “When we are partying the sensible part of our brain becomes less active, stopping us from being aware of the consequences of our behaviour. Thus we need to activate our brains collectively and put our heads together with our mates so that collectively we can monitor and support one another”.

What are your top tips for partying safely?

“Plan ahead!” says Richard, further elaborating with a quote by Henry Ford, “Those that fail to plan, plan to fail”. And look, drinking games are all, well, fun and games, but things can get out of hand pretty darn quickly. Pace yourself, don’t be afraid to say no, listen to that tiny part in your brain that says enough is most definitely, enough. Also WATER! Your body needs it! All day every day, but especially when you’re partying!

Another important tip, adds Richard, “Plan how to get home – for example, take enough money to share a taxi or Uber or nominate a driver to stay sober”.

A side note

Look, I’m not here to judge anyone’s preference on how they choose to live their life and what chemicals they have since decided to place into their body. But taking any illegal substance is, well, illegal for one, and can be ridiculously dangerous. This is especially if you’re deciding to mix a whole bunch of things together to go hard or go home. Again, check yourself before you (seriously) wreck yourself.

If you have taken an illegal substance, it is extremely important that you tell paramedics or doctors what you have taken so that they can provide appropriate medical aid.  Police are not involved in a drug-related medical emergency unless paramedics feel threatened, someone has died, or other non-drug related crimes have occurred. In any case, it is not worth withholding vital, possibly life-saving information for fear of getting in trouble. Be upfront and honest.

Tips for looking after someone who you suspect may have overdosed?

There are no ifs or buts about this type of scenario. Stay with them, tell security or a staff member immediately at the venue and call the ambulance.

Any overall tips for first timers to Autonomy Party?

Pace yourself. You’re not impressing anyone, seriously. Look after your mates. Look after yourself. Have a good time but remember this isn’t your Year 12 after party. You’re not a tween anymore kid, stay safe, and party safely. It’s as simple as that.

Alcohol & Drug Information Service (ADIS)     1800 422 599

24hr service providing education, information, referral, crisis counselling and support about legal and illegal drugs.

National Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence Service  1800 737 732

24hr counselling, information & support for those who have experienced or are supporting someone who has experienced sexual assault and/or relationship violence.

IMAGE: Melissa Askew

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