GrogWatch News Roundup - 26 Mar 2013

WA’s Samantha Menezes – secondary supply laws success at last

Perth mother Samantha Menezes has been driving a campaign to introduce Secondary Supply (teen drinking) laws in Western Australia for nearly two years. Last week the WA Government announced they would introduce the legislation. Here Samantha shares with GrogWatch her reflections on being a community advocate and why she’s not done campaigning yet.

I have been lobbying the Western Australian Government to introduce Secondary Supply Laws for the past 20 months.

This campaign began coincidently with the announcement that the Minister for Racing and Gaming, Terry Waldron had employed an independent Liquor Act Review Committee to review the Liquor Control Act 1988.

Consequently in January 2015 one of the recommendations of the Liquor Act Review committee was that WA introduces secondary supply laws. This will make the supply of alcohol to minors at a private premise illegal without parental permission. If permission is granted, the alcohol must be supplied in a “responsible” manner. This brings WA into line with Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales, Northern Territory and Tasmania.

After the online petition was launched in March 2013 the campaign rapidly gained community support (see the Introduce Secondary Supply Laws in WA Facebook page).The petition also attracted much media attention that in turn spread the message far and wide in WA, in other states of Australia and internationally.

From a personal perspective I felt supported, because often as a parent you actually do feel alone in your decision-making, in particular toward alcohol use in teens.

I have since discovered that this is not an isolated phenomenon and that many parents personal views about supplying alcohol are often overshadowed by thoughts that “all the other parents supply alcohol “– at gatherings, at pre ball parties and in particular Leavers. They thus feel pressured to follow suit.

The benefit of this legislation is that parents feel united and able to say no to alcohol to their children and other people’s children. Young people will also begin to understand that saying no to alcohol is actually a common thing to do as statistically more and more young people are choosing to not drink it.

People may then ask, what is the need for such legislation? The needs are complex. Firstly, those who are consuming alcohol underage are doing so excessively and with a deliberate intention to get drunk. Secondly, this legislation is setting a standard in the community that underage drinking and the supply of alcohol to minors is unacceptable. Parents need this legislative support because without it they have no legal backing at all over the supply of alcohol to their children.

The WA Government’s Drug and Alcohol Office further support this commitment. Alcohol Think Again’s recent campaign has focused on parents supplying alcohol to their under 18’s.

SA and the ACT are the only two jurisdictions left in Australia that will have no secondary supply laws by mid 2015. I have approached the South Australian Government about this and the response was that it would be difficult to enforce. My response is that it’s not about the amount of prosecutions gained. It is about legislation combined with effective, well thought out education targeting parents/ adults. It also shows the community a committed Government response to the plight of underage drinking in Australia.

I ask the SA and ACT Governments if they have a commitment to reducing underage drinking via legislation targeting the supply of alcohol to minors? I implore them to think beyond enforcement and prosecutions to the real benefit such legislation brings – support for those who do not want other adults supplying their children with alcohol.

Do SA and ACT parents realise their children can be legally supplied alcohol by any adult on a private premise without their permission? Do these parents realise that should harm happen to their children because of this supply they will have absolutely no backing by the law? I can tell you many WA parents were not aware of this and expressed shock and disbelief.

Simply using the excuse it’s too hard to enforce is not good enough. Supply of alcohol to minors on a licensed premise or from a retailer is illegal. You can’t drink alcohol in public spaces. So, why then is it ok to supply without parental permission on private premises?

Introducing secondary supply legislation into every Australian jurisdiction will highlight to the Australian public that as a nation we are becoming intolerant to the supply of alcohol to minors and that this culture must change.

Although it seems commonsense and the question of legislating is beyond belief really, the reality is that people will supply to minors without asking parents and the harms that are associated with excessive alcohol consumption such as the effect upon brain development are well known.

Samantha Menezes 

Are you a parent in ACT or SA? Would you like to help advocate for the introduction of these laws on your state? Get in touch with GrogWatch.