November 26, 2021
Providing alcohol to under 18s
We know that it’s illegal for bar staff or bottle shops to serve or sell alcohol to people under 18, but what if they’re in a private home under adult supervision?
What is Secondary supply?
‘Secondary supply’ is a legal term used to describe an adult providing alcohol to someone under 18.
In Australia, it’s against the law to serve alcohol in a private home to anyone under 18, unless you’re the young person’s parent or guardian or, in the case of most states and territories, you have permission from the parent/guardian.
Secondary supply is the most common way that young people obtain alcohol, with 43% of underage people getting alcohol from their parents.1
Alcohol-related harms in young people
Australia’s drinking guidelines say to reduce the risk of injury and other harms to health, anyone under 18 years of age should avoid alcohol altogether.
Because drinking alcohol can affect how the brain develops in young people up until the age of 25.
This includes areas of the brain associated with attention, memory, and decision-making abilities.2, 3 Drinking alcohol while these areas are still developing could increase the risk of:
- memory problems
- learning difficulties
- mental health issues
In fact, the earlier a young person starts drinking, and the more frequently they drink, the more likely they are to develop an alcohol dependence later in life.4, 5
While young people today are less likely to drink alcohol than previous generations, they’re actually more likely to ’binge drink’ and take risks which can result in injuries, alcohol poisoning and potentially death.7,8
The highest alcohol-related injury presentations in Australian emergency departments are for 15 to 19-year-olds.9
Current secondary supply laws in Australia
In Australia, it isn’t illegal for a person under 18 to drink alcohol on private property.
However, in most states and territories, the person who supplied them with the alcohol could be breaking the law – unless they’re 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 18 with alcohol if responsible supervision is not provided.
Responsible supervision is generally determined by:
- if the adult supplying the alcohol is intoxicated (when a person's speech, balance, coordination, or behaviour is noticeably affected by alcohol)
- if the young person is intoxicated
- the age of the young person
- the type and amount of alcohol supplied and over what period of time
- if the young person has eaten food with the alcohol
- 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
|Australian Capital Territory||Liquor Act 2010 (ACT)||It’s 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 an adult who has approval from the parent or guardian. The supply needs to be consistent with the responsible supervision of the minor.||The penalty for an offence is currently $3,200.10|
|New South Wales||Liquor Act 2007 (NSW)||It’s 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 an adult who has approval from the parent or guardian. The supply should be consistent with the responsible supervision of the minor.||A person convicted of secondary supply in NSW can be fined up to $11,000 and/or 12 months’ imprisonment.|
|Northern Territory||Liquor Act (NT)||It’s 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 an adult who has parental rights and responsibilities for the young person. The supplying adult must supervise the young person responsibly.[12 ]||Offenders are liable for a fine of up to $13,300.12|
|Queensland||Liquor Act 1992||It’s 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 an adult with parental responsibilities. The supplying adult must provide responsible supervision of the young person’s consumption.[13 ]||The penalty for an offence is a fine up to $11,028.13|
|South Australia||Liquor Licensing Act 1997||It’s 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.14 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.[14 ]||A person who contravenes this law can face a maximum penalty of $10,000 or an on-the-spot fine of $500.|
|Tasmania||Police Offences Act 1935 (Tas)||It’s illegal to supply alcohol to under 18s in a private home unless it is supplied by: a parent, step-parent or guardian an adult with parental rights and responsibilities an adult who has the approval of the young person’s parent or guardian. Alcohol must be supplied in a responsible manner.||Fines or a jail term may be incurred for breaking this law.|
|Victoria||Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 (Vic)||It’s illegal to supply alcohol to people aged under 18 in a private home unless parental consent has been given and the authorised adult can demonstrate responsible supervision of the supply. The adult must be: the parent, guardian or spouse of the minor an adult who is authorised to supply liquor by the minor’s parent, guardian or spouse.||Penalty exceeds $19,000.[18 ]|
|Western Australia||Liquor Legislation Amendment Act 2015 (WA)||It’s illegal to supply alcohol to people aged under 18 in a private home unless the parent or guardian has provided consent.[19 ] The person supplying the alcohol must: not be intoxicated, or otherwise unable to act in a responsible manner supervise consumption by the young person at all times.||Offenders can be fined up to $10,000 for each underage drinker involved.[19 ]|
- 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.
- Guerri C, Pascual M. Impact of neuroimmune activation induced by alcohol or drug abuse on adolescent brain development. International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience. 2019;77:89-98.
- Spear LP. Effects of adolescent alcohol consumption on the brain and behaviour. Nature Reviews Neuroscience [Internet]. 2018 Viewed 22/11/2021]; (4):[197 p.].
- 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 [Internet]. 2017 Viewed 22/11/2021]; 112(7):[1142-62 pp.].
- 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.
- Lima F, Sims S, O'Donnell M. Harmful drinking is associated with mental health conditions and other risk behaviours in Australian young people. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 2020;44(3):201-7.
- National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. Canberra: Australian Research Council and Universities Australia. Commonwealth of Australia; 2020. 29/10/2021].
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019. Canberra: AIHW; 2020.
- 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.
- ACT Government. Secondary Supply of Alcohol to Minors: ACT Government; [29/10/2021].
- NSW Police Force.Alcohol and Young People: Government of New South Wales; [26/10/2021].
- Northern Territory Government. Young people, alcohol and drugs: Norhtern Territory Governement of Australia; 2020 [29/10/2021]. Available from:
- Queensland Government. Supplying alcohol to under 18s: The State of Queensland 1995–2020; 2019 [29/10/2021].
- Government of South Australia. Information for parents of minors: Government of South Australia; 2019 [29/10/2021].
- Attorney-General's Department. Stop the Supply of Alcohol to Minors: Parent FAQ. Government of South Australia; 2018.
- Tasmania Police. Youth and Alcohol: Tasmanian Government; 2016 [29/10/2021].
- Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation. Changes to the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998: Victoria State Government; 2018 [29/10/2021].
- Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation. Liquor Licensing Law: Under 18? No supply: Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation; [date unknown] [29/10/2021].
- Alcohol Think Again. Alcohol laws for under 18s: Government of Western Australia; 2020 [29/10/2021].