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February 14, 2017

Secondary supply

Secondary supply is when you provide alcohol to a person aged under 18 years.
It is now against the law to serve alcohol in a private home to anyone under 18, unless their parents have given permission.
It remains illegal for bar staff or bottle shops to serve or sell alcohol to under 18’s.

Why is secondary supply important?

Drinking is not safe for people under 18 years old. There have been a number of cases in Australia where a person has suffered injuries or died as a result of drinking too much alcohol after being supplied by an adult.

The brain is still developing up until your mid-20s. Drinking alcohol may damage a young brain and lead to health complications later in life.

The earlier a young person is introduced to alcohol, the more likely they are to develop problems with it later in life. Young people should therefore delay their first drink for as long as possible.

Secondary supply is the most common way that young people obtain alcohol. Almost 40% of underage drinkers get alcohol from their parents. The majority of minors obtain alcohol from a person who is not their parent, guardian or carer.1

The current laws in Australia

Across Australia, a person who is under the age of 18 is not breaking the law if they drink alcohol on private property. Though, in most states and territories, the person who supplied them with the alcohol could be breaking the law – unless they are the child’s parent or guardian and act in a responsible manner. However, the young person’s parent or guardian can provide consent for the young person to consume alcohol at the private residence.

The following legal information is correct at the time of publication. For more information about the supply of alcohol to people aged under 18 years, contact the Legal Aid Commission in your state or territory.

Australian Capital Territory

Under Section 204A of the Liquor Act 2010 (ACT), it is illegal to supply alcohol to people aged under 18 years in a private home unless it is supplied by:

  • the child’s parent or guardian, or
  • an adult who has the approval of the child’s parent or guardian.

The penalty for an offence is 20 penalty units, currently $3,000.

Find out more at supply of alcohol to minors (secondary supply)

New South Wales

Under Section 117 of the Liquor Act 2007 (NSW), it is illegal to supply alcohol to people aged under 18 years in a private home unless it is supplied by:

  • the child’s parent or guardian, or
  • an adult who has the approval of the child’s parent or guardian.

A person convicted of secondary supply in NSW can be fined up to $11,000 for each underage drinker involved.

Find out more on secondary supply in NSW

Northern Territory

Under Section 106C of the Liquor Act (NT), it is illegal to supply alcohol to people aged under 18 years in a private home unless it is supplied by:

  • a parent, step-parent or guardian, or
  •  an adult who has the parental rights and responsibilities for the child.

However, if the supply of this alcohol is not accompanied by ‘responsible supervision’ (see definition below), the supplier may still be prosecuted.

Offenders are liable for a fine of up to $13,300.

Queensland

Under Section 156A of the Liquor Act 1992 (Qld), it is illegal to supply alcohol to people aged under 18 years in a private home unless it is supplied by:

  • a parent, step-parent or guardian, or
  • an adult with parental responsibilities.

However, if the supply of this alcohol is not accompanied by ‘responsible supervision’ (see definition below), the supplier may still be prosecuted.

The penalty for an offence is a fine up to $9,572.

Find out more at the Queensland Government website.

Tasmania

Under the Police Offences Act 1935 (Tas), it is illegal to supply alcohol to people aged under 18 years in a private home unless it is supplied by:

  • a parent, or an adult with parental rights and responsibilities, or
  • an adult who has the approval of the child’s parent or guardian.

However, if the supply of this alcohol is not accompanied by ‘responsible supervision’ (see definition below), the supplier may still be prosecuted.

Fines of up to $12,000 or a jail term of up to 12 months may be incurred for offences that are deemed more serious. Fines for lesser offences may be imposed by infringement notice.

Find out more at Youth and Alcohol at Tasmania Police.

Victoria

Under the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 (Vic), it is illegal to supply alcohol to people aged under 18 years in a private home unless parental consent has been given.

Offenders are liable for a fine of more than $7,000.

Find out more at Teen Drinking Law.

Western Australia

Under Section 122A of the Liquor Legislation Amendment Act 2015 (WA), it is illegal to supply alcohol to people aged under 18 years in a private home without the consent of the parent or guardian.

It is an offence to supply alcohol to people under aged 18 if the parent or guardian giving consent is drunk or otherwise unable to act in a responsible manner.

Offenders are liable for a fine of up to $10,000 for each underage drinker involved.

Find out more at Secondary Supply Laws FAQs.

Responsible supervision

In Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory it is illegal to supply people under the age of 18 with alcohol if responsible supervision is not provided.

Responsible supervision is generally determined by:

  • whether the adult was drunk
  • whether the child was drunk or unduly intoxicated (when a person’s speech, balance, coordination or behaviour is noticeably affected by alcohol).
  • the age of the child
  • the amount of alcohol consumed by the child and over what period of time
  • whether the child consumed food with the liquor
  • how the child was supervised.
References
  1. White, V. & Bariola, E. (2012). Tobacco, alcohol, over-the-counter and illicit substance use among Australian secondary school students 2011. Victoria: Cancer Council.