Find out where and when you can drink, and who can buy alcohol below. For free and confidential legal advice about this topic, please contact us here.

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Drinking in Australia is a social activity that can be 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.

Buying alcohol

If you are under 18, it is against the law for you to buy alcohol. If you are under 18 and caught buying alcohol, the police can give you a fine of $220. Police can also take other action, such as giving you a caution.

While you are under 18, it is also against the law for anyone to sell you alcohol, or to give you alcohol unless they have the permission of your parent or guardian and you are supervised while drinking..

Buying alcohol online

Whenever you purchase alcohol online or by phone you should be required to show some form of ID to prove you are 18.

If you are under 18 and you accept a delivery of alcohol without permission of your parent or guardian, you can be fined $220 on the spot.

Drinking alcohol at home

There is no law against drinking alcohol on private premises if you are under 18. “Private premises” are places like your home or a friend’s house, but not “public places” like parks or beaches.

However, you should know that an adult who gives you the alcohol may be breaking the law. They can be fined $1,100 by police or end up in Court, unless they are:

  • your parent or guardian; or
  • another person who was given permission by your parent or guardian to give you alcohol, and they are supervising you responsibly.

If the police do not think you have been supervised responsibly while drinking alcohol, it will be up to the police officer to decide whether the adult responsible should be taken to court. The police officer will look at things like:

  • your age;
  • the amount of alcohol you had and how long you were drinking;
  • the type of alcohol you had;
  • whether you had the alcohol with food; and
  • whether you were given alcohol while you were drunk.

Drinking in public places

If you are under 18, it is against the law for you to have or drink alcohol in a public place, unless you are under the supervision of a responsible adult or had a reasonable excuse for having the alcohol or drinking it.

The police can fine you $20 and confiscate the alcohol permanently if you break this law. They can also choose to refer you to the Your Choice program.

Public places usually include places like:

  • footpaths and roads;
  • parks;
  • beaches;
  • shopping centres;
  • unlicensed restaurants, cafes and dining areas (places that do not sell alcohol);
  • community centres, halls and churches;
  • theatres, libraries and galleries;
  • gyms and sporting facilities; and

If you are caught, the police officer can ask you to provide:

  • your full name, address, and date of birth; and
  • proof of age.

If you refuse to provide any of the above or you give a fake name or address, you can be fined another $20 on the spot by the police, receive a warning or caution for drinking in a public place.

Alcohol-free zones

There are also some public places where drinking alcohol is always illegal, regardless of whether you are under or over 18 or with an adult . These are known as alcohol-free zones or alcohol prohibited zones.

Alcohol-free zones can be marked by signs on the street, on buildings and at the entrance to parks and beaches. Sometimes they may not be marked at all. If you are unsure, it is best to check the signs and ask someone (like the lifeguard at the beach or rangers in a national park) whether you are in an alcohol-free zone.

If you are carrying unopened alcohol through an alcohol-free zone, it is a good idea to store alcohol in a bag, so it is out of sight. If you are caught drinking in an alcohol-free zone, or it is suspected that you were recently drinking in the alcohol free zone then the police or council rangers can confiscate the alcohol and tip out open containers. If you are asked to tip your open alcohol out, it is always safer to cooperate.

If you are asked to move on and you don’t cooperate with the police, you can be fined $220.

Public transport

It is generally illegal to drink alcohol or carry an open container of alcohol on any bus, ferry, train or in a public area such as a bus stop, ferry wharf or train station. Police and transit officers can fine you $400.

Drinking in licensed venues

Licensed premises are hotels, pubs, clubs, bars, bottle shops and (some) restaurants. These places have a licence to sell alcohol to people 18 and over.

If you are under 18, it is against the law for you to drink, obtain or be given alcohol in a licensed venue, even if you are with your parent or guardian. If you are caught, the police can give you a fine of $220 on the spot or take other action.

If you enter a licensed venue with an adult and then you drink alcohol, the adult can also be fined $330 on the spot .

Requests for ID

If you’re buying alcohol, or entering part of a pub, club or bar that is restricted to adults, and look like you might be under 25, the staff will probably ask you for ID. If you don’t have an ID, you can be refused entry, prevented from buying alcohol or asked to leave, regardless of your actual age.

The person selling you alcohol, the venue staff and the police can ask you for:

  • your full name address, and date of birth; and
  • proof of age.

If you refuse to give any of these, you can be fined $220 on the spot by the police.

You can prove your age with different types of valid ID including:

  • NSW driver’s licence or from any other State or Territory in Australia;
  • NSW Photo Card;
  • Proof of Age card from another State or Territory in Australia;
  • Passport; or
  • Keypass identity card from Australia Post.

Your ID must be be valid, so it can’t be expired, punched or clipped. Otherwise, it may not be accepted.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. You can be fined $220 on the spot by the police if caught doing so.

For more information, check out our Fake ID page.

Want to find out more about drinking?

It’s really important to read up on alcohol before you start drinking, and to know what you are drinking and how it might affect you.

For more information on alcohol, you can check out the Your Room website by NSW Health.

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