November 17, 2020

Understanding secondary supply of alcohol

teens party at sunset

Secondary supply is a legal term used to describe an adult providing alcohol to someone under the age of 18.

In Australia, it’s against the law to serve alcohol in a private home to anyone under 18 years old, unless you are the young person’s parent or guardian, or in the case of most states and territories, you have permission from the parent/guardian.

It’s illegal for bar staff or bottle shops to serve or sell alcohol to people under the age of 18.

Secondary supply is the most common way that young people obtain alcohol, with 43% of young people obtaining alcohol from their parents.1

Alcohol-related harms

Drinking alcohol can affect how a young person’s brain develops in those under the age of 25 years. During the teenage years, the frontal lobe and hippocampus are still developing. These areas are associated with attention, memory, and decision-making abilities.2,3 The earlier a young person starts drinking, and the more frequently they drink, the more likely they are to develop a dependency on alcohol later in life.4,5

While young people are now less likely to drink alcohol than in previous generations, they are more likely to binge drink and take risks which can result in injuries, alcohol poisoning and potentially death.6

The highest alcohol-related injury presentations in Australian emergency departments are for people aged 15 to 19 years of age.7

Current laws in Australia

In Australia, it is not illegal for a person under the age of 18 to drink alcohol on private property.

In most states and territories, however, the person who supplied them with the alcohol could be breaking the law – unless they are the young person’s parent or guardian, or the parent or guardian has provided consent.

In all states and territories, it’s 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 supplying the alcohol is unduly intoxicated (when a person's speech, balance, coordination, or behaviour is noticeably affected by alcohol)
  • whether the young person is overly intoxicated
  • the age of the young person
  • the type and amount of alcohol supplied and over what period of time
  • whether the young person consumed food with the liquor
  • how the young person is supervised by the adult supplying the alcohol.

State and territory laws*

*Note: The following information is correct at the time of publication, but may not be up to date

Location Liquor Act Requirements Penalty
Australian Capital Territory 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 young person’s parent or guardian, or an adult who has approval from the parent or guardian the supply of alcohol is consistent with the responsible supervision of the minor.(8) The penalty for an offense is currently $3,200.(8)
New South Wales 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 young person’s parent or guardian, or an adult who has approval from the parent or guardian the supply is consistent with the responsible supervision of the minor.(9) A person convicted of secondary supply in NSW can be fined up to $11,000 and/or 12 months’ imprisonment.(9)
Northern Territory 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, guardian, or an adult who has parental rights and responsibilities for the young person the person supervises the young person responsibly.(10) Offenders are liable for a fine of up to $13,300.(10)
Queensland Liquor Act 1992 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 you provide responsible supervision of their consumption.(11) The penalty for an offence is a fine up to $10,676.(11)
South Australia Liquor Licensing Act 1997 It is illegal to provide a person under the age of 18 with alcohol in a private home unless: you have permission from their parent or guardian(12) the adult who has been given permission to supply alcohol must provide responsible supervision, including: direct supervision of the teenager; the teenager must not be intoxicated; the supervising adult must not be intoxicated.(12) A person who contravenes this law can face a maximum penalty of $10,000 or an on-the-spot fine of $500.(13)
Tasmania 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, step-parent, guardian, an adult with parental rights and responsibilities, or an adult who has the approval of the young person’s parent or guardian alcohol is supplied in a responsible manner.(14) Fines or a jail term may be incurred for breaking this law.(14)
Victoria Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 (Vic) It is illegal to supply alcohol to people aged under 18 in a private home unless: parental consent has been given(15) the adult (who is the parent, guardian or spouse of the minor, or who is authorised to supply liquor by the minor’s parent, guardian or spouse) can demonstrate responsible supervision of the supply.(15) Penalty exceeds $19,000.(16)
Western Australia Under the Liquor Legislation Amendment Act 2015 (WA) It is illegal to supply alcohol to people aged under 18 years in a private home unless: the parent or guardian has provided consent.(17) the person supplying the alcohol must: not be intoxicated, or otherwise unable to act in a responsible manner, and must supervise consumption by the young person at all times.(17) Offenders can be fined up to $10,000 for each underage drinker involved.(17)

*For more information about the supply of alcohol to people aged under 18 years, contact the Legal Aid Commission in your state or territory.

More information

  1. Guerin N, & White, V. ASSAD 2017 Statistics & Trends: Australian Secondary Students’ Use of Tobacco, Alcohol, Over-the-counter Drugs, and Illicit Substances. Second Edition.: Cancer Council Victoria; 2020.
  2. Spear LP. Effects of adolescent alcohol consumption on the brain and behaviour. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 2018(4):197.
  3. Guerri C, Pascual M. Impact of neuroimmune activation induced by alcohol or drug abuse on adolescent brain development. International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience. 2019.
  4. Yap MBH, Cheong TWK, Zaravinos-Tsakos F, Lubman DI, Jorm AF. Modifiable parenting factors associated with adolescent alcohol misuse: a systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Addiction. 2017;112(7):1142-62.
  5. Bonomo YA, Bowes G, Coffey C, Carlin JB, Patton GC. Teenage drinking and the onset of alcohol dependence: a cohort study over seven years. Addiction. 2004;99(12):1520-8.
  6. National Health and Medical Research Council. Draft Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol. Australian Government; 2020.
  7. Lensvelt E, Gilmore, W, Gordon, E, Hobday, M, Liang, W, Chikritzhs, T. Trends in estimated alcohol-related emergency department presentations in Australia 2005-06 to 2011-12. National Drug Research Institute,  Curtin University; 2015.
  8. ACT Government. Secondary Supply of Alcohol to Minors: ACT Government; [date unknown] [Accessed 12 November 2020].
  9. Liquor and Gaming NSW. Underage drinking laws: NSW Government; [date unknown] [Accessed 12 November 2020].
  10. Northern Territory Government. Young people, alcohol and drugs: Norhtern Territory Governement of Australia; 2020 [Accessed 12 November 2020].
  11. Queensland Government. Supplying alcohol to under 18s: The State of Queensland 1995–2020; 2019 [Accessed 12 November 2020].
  12. Government of South Australia. Information for parents of minors: Government of South Australia; 2019 [Accessed 12 November 2020].
  13. Attorney-General's Department. Stop the Supply of Alcohol to Minors: Parent FAQ. Government of South Australia; 2018.
  14. Tasmania Police. Youth and Alcohol: Tasmanian Government; 2016 [Accessed 12 November 2020].
  15. Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation. Changes to the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998: Victoria State Government; 2018 [Accessed 12 November 2020].
  16. Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation. Liquor Licensing Law: Under 18? No supply: Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation; [date unknown][Accessed 12 November 2020].
  17. Alcohol Think Again. Alcohol laws for under 18s: Government of Western Australia; 2020 [Accessed 12 November 2020].

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