For a few years, South Australia was the only state without secondary supply laws. Since 2015, all other states have had strict laws that impose hefty fines to those that don’t adhere secondary supply laws. As of 18th December, 2017, changes have been made to South Australia’s Liquor Licensing Act 19971. And one of the major changes involves secondary supply. So, what exactly is secondary supply? And how do these changes affect both parents and young people in South Australia?
So, what is secondary supply
Secondary supply is when an adult, who has legally purchased alcohol, supplies that alcohol to a person under the age of 18. With the new laws, alcohol can no longer be served to a minor in a home or on private property unless the parent(s) of that minor have given permission and there is responsible supervision.
It still remains illegal for restaurants, bars or shops to sell alcohol to a minor and alcohol cannot be served to under 18s at organised event (which is any kind of event that has an entry fee, such as warehouse parties or after formal parties).
What is considered to be responsible supervision?
Responsible supervision involves many aspects, such as: the adult who is supervising should directly supervise the teenager while they are drinking and the adult should not be intoxicated and the teenager should not be intoxicated. It is also expected that the parent(s) take a common-sense approach when choosing the age at which they give their young person alcohol. There are risks associated with underage drinking.
Many authorities on the matter2 agree that it is not safe for people under 18 years of age to be consuming alcohol and that young people should delay their first drink as long as possible. For one, the brain of a young person is still developing (about 22-25 years of age for women and up to 35 years of age for men) and drinking alcohol may damage the brain and lead to health or cognitive complications later in life. Other associated concerns include: increased risk of injury, more likely to be involved in risky situations, poor academic performance and an elevated risk of mental health problems, to name a few.
Why have these laws been put in place?
In South Australia, almost half of all young people obtain their alcohol through secondary supply3. As mentioned, young people’s brains are still developing and the final part of their brains to develop is the prefrontal cortex.
The prefrontal cortex is in charge of many different things such as: consequence prediction, social and emotional behaviour and processing, reasoning, decision making, conflict resolution, reward expectations, processing of outcomes and behaviour self-regulation4. Since these functions are not fully developed, young people may make riskier decisions when it comes to alcohol use. This is why more responsibility is now being shifted to the parent(s). Under old laws, there was nothing to stop a young person from going to a friend’s house and consuming alcohol given to them by their friend’s parent, without the consent or knowledge of their own parent(s). The new law gives parents a legal right to be more aware of what’s going on with their young person before they turn 18.
What are the Consequences?
If an adult supplies a minor with liquor, they can now face a maximum penalty of $10,000 or an on the spot fine or $500. If a minor is caught with liquor illegally, they can face a maximum penalty of $2,500 or an on the spot fine of $210. The fines for secondary supply may seem hefty, but the safety of young people in Australia is paramount.
Secondary supply is important, not because it allows for more control over young people, but it gives allows the chance for celebrations to be both safe and fun. Parents are now granted a greater say in what is given to their young person at a party, or even just around the dinner table at a friend’s house. The more knowledge parents have of what their young person is up to can be a protective factor as well as build and strengthen relationship.