Drinking in Australia is very common. Often it’s very social and enjoyed with friends. However, it can be easily misused and have some serious legal consequences. It is important that you are aware of the different laws on what age and who can buy alcohol, and where you are allowed to drink.
Remember, if you are drinking it is important to be safe, and not to drink under pressure if you are feeling uncomfortable.
If you are under 18, it is against the law for you to buy alcohol. It is also against the law for anyone to sell you alcohol.
If you are caught buying alcohol and you are under 18, you can:
It is up to the police to decide whether to give you a warning or fine. If the police decide to fine you, then you can either choose to pay or take the matter to court.
Some communities also have a traditional drink called kava, which is a powdered root. If you are under 18, you are not allowed to have kava with you. While you won’t be given a penalty, a police officer may confiscate the kava from you and take the kava to a police station or destroy it.
You are also not allowed to purchase kava for friends or family, and it is against the law for other people to give it to you.
Do I need to show ID?
If you are buying alcohol, or entering part of a pub, club or bar that is restricted to adults, and look like you might be under 18, the staff will ask you to provide proof of age.
Most places will always ask if you look younger than 25. If you don’t have ID, you can be refused entry to a place or not allowed to buy alcohol.
It is against the law to use a fake ID to buy alcohol, or to use one to enter a place where alcohol is served, like a pub, bar or club. If caught trying, you can be fined 308 on the spot, or up to $7,700 if found guilty by a court. Anyone can confiscate an ID from you if they have a reason to think it is fake. For more information see our Fake ID page.
Private premises are places like your home or a friend’s home. Generally, there is no law which says you cannot drink on private premises when you are under 18. However, the person who gives you the alcohol will be breaking the law for giving you alcohol to drink if you are under 18, unless:
In deciding whether you were properly supervised, the court will look at:
However, there may be some private houses, areas (eg a church) or communities that will be decided by the Government to be “restricted premises”. A person (usually the owner may apply to the Government to make it legal on their property to drink alcohol, for example because they are concerned about anti-social drinking taking place there. This means you won’t be able to drink at those private premises. If you are not sure whether a place is restricted, you should ask the owner of the house or person who manages the property.
Many public places in the Northern Territory are ‘restricted drinking areas’. Even if you are 18 or over, it is illegal to have on you or drink alcohol in these places unless you have a permit. You can find a list of these areas, and some maps, at the following website:
If you are caught drinking in public place, the police may fine you $154 on the spot. The alcohol can be confiscated by the police. Certain areas are also ‘alcohol protected areas’, which have extra rules. You cannot bring alcohol into these areas, or drink alcohol in an area that is an ‘alcohol protected area’. There should be signage at the entry point to these communities that are alcohol protected areas. If you are caught, the police may fine you up to $15 400, or give you a sentence of up to 6 months in prison if you are found guilty.
If there is alcohol at a house party and people are under 18, it is best to get permission from their parents. It is best for permission to be in writing (eg a text message or email from the parents of the person under 18).
If you go to a house party where alcohol is served, you will need to be supervised by your parent, guardian or someone with parental rights and responsibilities for you it doesn’t matter if you are under supervision by another person’s parents or adult, or on your own. There are heavy fines if someone gives you are not properly supervised. That person can be given a fine of up to $15,400.
In any event, you and your parents have a responsibility to take care of those at the party and to ensure those at your party are safe and not harmed. Your parents would be expected to supervise the party and to prevent excessive drinking and other safety risks.
Licensed premises are public places that have been given a licence by the government to sell or serve alcohol. These include bottle shops, pubs, bars, clubs, and some restaurants (called licensed restaurants).
If you are under 18, it is against the law for you to be on certain licensed premises at all. For most licensed premises, it is against the law for you to be there unless you are with your parent or guardian. It’s also against the law for you to drink on licensed premises, even if you are with your parents or guardian. If you are caught, you can be:
If you would like additional information, you can visit:
If you have a question about alcohol that we haven’t answered here, you can get help here.
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