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Alcohol and the Law

Disclaimer: The material in this factsheet is a general guide only. It is not legal advice. For legal advice about your own particular situation we encourage you to call the Free Legal Helpline on 1300 366 424. The legal information was correct at the time of publishing (January 2018), however may change without notice.


Buying Alcohol

If you are under 18 years old, it is against the law for you to buy alcohol. It is also against the law for anyone to sell you alcohol. The person that sells you alcohol is also breaking the law.

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 can ask you to provide proof of age. Police can also ask for proof of age.

Remember, using a fake I.D. or giving false details to the police is an offence.

Drinking Alcohol

The law about young people drinking alcohol can depend on where the alcohol is being drunk.

To make things easier to understand, this factsheet gives information on laws about drinking alcohol:

  • on licensed premises,
  • in a private place, or
  • in a public place

Check out the information under these headings to find out more.


Can I drink in licensed premises?

Licensed premises are 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). Places like sporting clubs can also be a licensed premises if they have a license to sell alcohol.


If you are under 18, it is against the law for you to drink, buy, or be given alcohol while you are in a licensed premises.  It doesn’t matter if you are with your parent or guardian. You can be given a warning, caution, or sent to Youth Court if you have been caught before. You might be given an on-the-spot fine.


If you ask an adult to buy you alcohol and they do it, then you and that person are guilty of an offence. There are penalties for these offences.


Keep in mind that there are also laws that say that young people are not allowed to be on licensed premises at certain times of the night, depending on what kind of license the premises has.


Remember that if you are asked to leave a licensed premises and you refuse to go, you may be removed from the premises, or the police could charge you with trespass.


Can I drink alcohol in private premises?

The laws about young people drinking at home or someone else’s home (or any ‘private residence’) have changed recently (Dec 2017).

It’s now an offence for anyone to give alcohol to a young person in a home, or for a young person to drink or have alcohol in a home UNLESS the young person is given the alcohol by:

  • their adult parent or care giver,  OR
  • an adult who has been given permission to give the young person alcohol from their parent or caregiver. 


  • that adult must also responsibly supervise the young person.


This means that, basically, a young person’s parent or caregiver must consent to the young person drinking in a home, and there must be responsible supervision. Whether supervision counts as ‘responsible’ would depend on things like whether the adult or young person is drunk, what kind of alcohol it is, how old the young person is etc.


You and your parents also have a responsibility to take care to ensure that those at your party are safe and not harmed.


Keep in mind that it is illegal to give young people alcohol or for young people to drink alcohol in any private property that is not residential (like warehouses, halls, industrial buildings etc.). On-the-spot fines and penalties can apply.


Can I drink in public places (un-licensed)?

Public places are places that the public have access to. For example public places can include footpaths, parks, beaches, and roads.


It is against the law for you to have alcohol, or drink alcohol, or for anyone to give you alcohol, in a public place unless you are with your parent or caregiver, or your parent or caregiver has given a responsible adult permission to give you alcohol, and you are being responsibly supervised.  


If you are drunk in a public place the police can take you home, to the police station, or to a sobering up centre if they believe that you are too drunk to take care of yourself. Police can also ask for proof of age if they think you may be underage. Remember, using a fake I.D. or giving false details to the police is an offence.


Remember, if a public area is designated as a ‘dry zone’ then it is against the law for anyone to drink alcohol there. Any alcohol can be confiscated by the police and it will not be returned.



The Legal Services Commission gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the NT Legal Aid Commission and National Children’s and Youth Legal Centre in allowing the Legal Services Commission of South Australia to use and adapt existing content.