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What is secondary supply?

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This fact sheet provides an overview about secondary supply laws in Australia.

Secondary supply is the term given to the provision of alcohol in a private home to people aged under 18 years.

Across Australia it is illegal for staff of licensed premises to serve alcohol to minors. Except in limited circumstances in some jurisdictions, it is also illegal for adults to purchase alcohol on behalf of minors on licensed premises.

South Australia is now the only state in Australia where the supply of alcohol to minors on private premises and in domestic residences is not controlled by law.

Why is secondary supply important?

Secondary supply is one way that young people obtain alcohol. Almost 40 per cent of underage drinkers get alcohol from their parents, and only 5 per cent buy it themselves. So a good deal (55%) of underage drinking occurs when minors obtain alcohol from a person who is not their parent, guardian or carer.1

The National Health and Medical Research Council's Australian alcohol guidelines suggest that for people under 18 years of age, not drinking alcohol is the safest option.

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 with it by an adult who was not their parent. Regulating private supply of alcohol aims to stop that happening by deterring adults from supplying alcohol to young people without approval from the young people's parents.

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. However, 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.

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.

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.

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', 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', the supplier may still be prosecuted.

The penalty for an offence is a fine up to the sum of $8,000.

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', 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.

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 over $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
  • 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.

 

What else can parents do?

There are many things parents can do to discourage their children from drinking alcohol:

  • speaking to their children honestly about alcohol, explaining their views and providing information about the effects of alcohol
  • sharing opinions on teenagers drinking with other parents
  • avoid buying alcohol for their children.

 

It is the parents' choice if, or when, their child starts drinking alcohol. They should talk to the child about the reasons behind their choice, and also speak to their children's friends' parents about this decision.

The best way to ensure that a child deals with alcohol responsibly is by setting a good example, by not binge drinking or using alcohol as a way of dealing with negative feelings. If a child sees their parents treating alcohol with respect, as a drug that can potentially cause harm, then they will be more likely to have a cautious approach to drinking.

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.

Last updated: March 2016

Information you heard is intended as a general guide only. This audio is copyrighted by the Australian Drug Foundation. Visit www.DrugInfo.ADF.org.au for more