GrogWatch - Parent's right to say no

Parents’ right to say no to teen drinking

In some states in Australia it’s still legal to serve someone who is under 18 with alcohol if it’s in a private setting. This is throwing up issues for parents who have no control over their child’s access to alcohol in other homes or at private parties. GrogWatch wants to know what you think; do you want the right to say no?

Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory have already addressed this loophole by bringing in ‘secondary supply’ laws. The laws state that a parent or equivalent must give consent before their child is given alcohol on a private premises. People who do supply alcohol to underage drinkers without this consent are receiving hefty fines. In Victoria 42 people have already been fined over $700 each since the secondary supply laws were brought in last year.

Unfortunately Western Australia, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory are lagging behind.

Parents are saying they need these laws to make a grey area clear. Parents don’t all have the same view on underage drinking and it becomes difficult for a parent to prevent their child from drinking at a friend’s house when they don’t have the law behind them. In fact research shows that approximately 30 per cent of current drinkers aged 12-17 years received their last drink from a parent. In the worst cases teenagers have died and been badly injured after being given massive amounts of alcohol by parents of their friends.

Teenagers are also obtaining alcohol from older siblings, who under secondary supply laws can receive a similar fine to adults for supplying an underage drinker with alcohol. This is a lesser known part of the laws and parents need to communicate this to their teenagers.

The WA Liquor Control Act is being reviewed in June, so this is the ideal time for parents in this state to let the WA Government know that they want secondary supply laws.

A best practice template for these laws already exists in Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. In these states it’s not only illegal to supply alcohol without a parent’s consent to an underage drinker; it’s also illegal not to supervise this drinking adequately even when consent has been given.

Responsible supervision is generally determined by:

  • whether the adult who supplied the alcohol 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.

The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends young people under 18 drink as little as possible in order to safeguard their health – secondary supply laws support that outcome by protecting young people in some hazardous social situations. It’s time that all young Australians had that protection.

For more information on secondary supply laws in different states take a look at the Australian Drug Foundation’s fact sheet.

Secondary supply laws are giving parents a reason to discuss their views on underage drinking with other parents and their teenagers. Let our readers know about your experiences with these laws by posting a comment or story.