is drinking in public allowed in melbourne, australia (2)

Is Drinking In Public Allowed In Melbourne, Australia?

Alcohol is Australia's most widely used drug, but it can cause significant harm to people and society, especially when consumed at dangerous levels. Every Australian State and territory have laws governing the use and service of alcohol. These laws have consequences such as fines, imprisonment or disqualification from driving. In Melbourne, there are alcohol laws and consequences relating to: 

  • drinking in a public place
  • underage drinking
  • liquor licensing
  • drink driving.

You are breaking the law anywhere in Australia if you drink and drive with a blood alcohol concentration over 0.05. The Alcohol and Drug Foundation has more information about blood alcohol levels and alcohol affects you.

Melbourne's Laws For Drinking In A Public Place

Under Victoria's Summary Offences Act 1966, there are a few ways you can get in trouble with the law while drinking in a public place. 

Drunk In A Public Place

If you're drunk in a public place, there are three offences you can be arrested and charged with under the Act. 

These Offences Are:

  • Drunk in a public place – police may think you're drunk if your speech, coordination, balance or behaviour is noticeably affected, and they believe it's because you've been drinking alcohol.
  • It is drunk and disorderly in a public place – drunk and acting in a way that disturbs the peace or interferes with others, or is interpreted as intending to do so.
  • Drunk and behaving in a riotous or disorderly manner – drunk and acting in a way that makes a member of the public fear a breach of the peace is likely. It's also a more serious version of the disorderly offence and is used if the police think your behaviour is severe. 

If you're convicted of one of these offences, you'll incur a penalty: 

  • She was drunk in a public place – a maximum of 8 penalty units.
  • I drunk and disorderly – first offence (maximum 20 penalty units or three days in prison). Second or subsequent offence (20 penalty units or one month in prison).
  • Drunk and behaving riotous or disorderly – maximum of 10 penalty units or prison for two months.

A penalty unit is how a fine is calculated. One penalty unit is indexed and increases each year on 1 July. Currently, one penalty unit is $165.22. Victoria Legal Aid has more information about current penalty unit rates.

Violence Trouble Spots 

Under the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998, certain areas shown to have a greater tendency for alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour can be classified as 'designated areas. The Victorian Commission makes such a determination for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) in consultation with the Chief Commissioner of Police.

Once a place has been classified as a designated area, Victoria Police has the power to ban people from that area for up to 72 hours, or up to 12 months for repeat offenders (for offences including drunkenness, physical assault, destroying or damaging property and failure to leave licensed premises).

Barring Problem Customers From Licensed Premises 

There are three ways a problem customer can be denied access to a licensed premise:

  • General powers to refuse entry – every licensee can: 
    • Refuse entry to their premises to any person (so long as this refusal is non-discriminatory).
    • Ask any person to leave their premises.
  • Banning entry under a liquor accord
  • Licensees can also join a 'liquor accord agreement. (Such as licensees in a local community area.) Members of a liquor accord can ban a troublesome person from the premises of participating members.

Issuing A Barring Order

  • Under the Liquor Control Reform Act, Victoria Police, licensees or 'responsible persons' can issue a Barring Order enforceable by Victoria Police. Such an order can be issued if:
    • you're drunk, violent or arguing
    • Someone in authority believes there is a serious or immediate risk that someone will be harmed because you've been drinking.
    • Once a person is served with a Barring Order, they must leave the venue and its vicinity (within 20 metres of the venue). They cannot return until the Barring Order expires. 
    • If a person does not comply with the requirements of a Barring Order, Victoria Police may issue them with an on-the-spot fine. 
    • Barring can be for up to 1 month if it's your first order. If you've been barred more than once, you can be barred for up to 6 months.

Melbourne Laws For Underage Drinking

The legal drinking age in Victoria is 18. However, if you're under 18, there are several ways you can get in trouble with the law if you buy or drink alcohol. 

Buying Alcohol

  • If you're under 18, you're not allowed to buy alcohol, even if you're buying it for an adult (someone over the age of 18). 
  • If you ask your friends (over 18) to buy alcohol for you and give you the alcohol, they can get fined. 

Going To A Pub, Bar-Or Other Licensed Premises

If you are under 18, you are not allowed to be in a licensed place (such as a bar or pub)where alcohol is served unless one or more of the following applies: 

  • you are with a responsible adult
  • you are having a meal
  • you are a resident of the licensed place
  • you are employed by the licensed venue but not involved in the supply of alcohol
  • You are completing an approved training program in hospitality.

You, the person serving you and the owner of the licensed place, can be fined if you're caught and do not satisfy one or more of the above categories. For example, a liquor licensee can be fined up to $19,343 for selling alcohol to a minor.

Some local government by-laws prohibit alcohol consumption on designated streets, parks, and other areas within their jurisdictions. Consumption of alcohol on public transport property and vehicles is not allowed. Persons under 18 years cannot drink alcohol on licensed premises under any circumstances.

When Being at a Party is Enough, this means that if your child is holding an alcoholic beverage when the police arrive, even if they aren't drinking it, police may arrest your child. Police can also make such arrests when a minor is holding something that only appears to be alcohol.

Under Western Australian alcohol laws, it is an offence for persons of any age to drink in public, such as on the street, park or beach. However, this does not stop you from enjoying a picnic in a park or on a beach where council by-laws permit.

FAQs About Drinking Alcohol In Public Is Allowed

Proof Of Age

You may be asked for proof of age in a licensed place. People selling alcohol in licensed places can be fined if they serve alcohol to someone under the legal drinking age. It's an offence to give a false name and address or to refuse to show proof of age, and you can be fined. Your driver's licence is the best proof of age, but if you don't yet have it, you can get a proof of age card recognised across Australia. Application forms are available at some VicRoads, Australia Post offices, and the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation.

Underage Drinking In Private Homes

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Parents or guardians can provide alcohol to their children under 18 in their private homes. It is illegal for a person to provide alcohol to someone under 18 without permission from their parent or guardian in someone else's home. Adults who do so face fines of up to $19,343. It's advisable for anyone organising parties for young people under 18 to get written permission from their parents or guardians. This also applies to social visits. The Liquor Control Reform Act requires adults supplying alcohol to anyone under 18 in their home to demonstrate responsible supervision of the supply of liquor. Factors considered when determining whether responsible supervision has been demonstrated include:

  • the age of the minor
  • whether the person supplying the liquor is intoxicated
  • whether the minor consumes food with the liquor
  • whether the person supplying the liquor is providing supervision of the minor's consumption of the liquor
  • the quantity and type of liquor supplied
  • the period over which the liquor is supplied
  • whether the minor is intoxicated.

Penalties For Underage Drinking

Alcohol has some serious health risks for teenagers and contributes to all the leading causes of death for young people. Penalties are in place to help to minimise risks for anyone under 18. 

The maximum penalty is 60 penalty units for any adult who:

  • allows an unauthorised person under 18in a licensed place 
  • serves alcohol to a person under 18 
  • buys alcohol for someone underage.

An employee who serves alcohol to under 18 can be fined up to 10 penalty units. Five penalty units are the maximum penalty for a person under 18 who buys or drinks alcohol or is found on licensed premises when they are not authorised to be there.

Melbourne Liquor Licensing Laws

Every state and territory have liquor licensing laws. Liquor licences regulate:

  • who supplies liquor
  • who it is supplied to
  • when it is supplied or consumed
  • where it is supplied or consumed
  • how it is supplied.

In Victoria, the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 controls the sale and supply of alcohol, and one of its objectives is to minimise alcohol-related harm. The VCGLR administers Victoria's liquor licensing laws. It's an independent statutory authority responsible for:

  • administering liquor licences
  • undertaking disciplinary action where necessary
  • promoting awareness of and voluntary compliance with the State's liquor laws.

Generally, anyone who intends to sell or provide liquor in Victoria must have a liquor licence from the VCGLR, but there are many exemptions. People have the right to object to an application for a liquor licence. Breaches of a liquor licence carry penalties.

Melbourne Laws For Drinking And Driving

The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for fully licensed drivers in Victoria, and all other states and territories, is 0.05.  A zero BAC is required for:

  • drivers on a probationary licence (P plates) or learner permit (L plates)
  • bus and taxi drivers
  • drivers of trucks over 15 tonnes.

If you are convicted of drink driving, you may face severe penalties, such as:

  • loss of licence
  • fines
  • Imprisonment.

If you lose your licence or learner permit due to drink driving, you must install a VicRoads approved alcohol interlock to any vehicle you drive. This is a requirement to have your licence or permit reissued. It is also an offence to drink alcohol while driving a car or while sitting beside someone who is learning to drive, even if no alcohol is detected in the driver's blood or breath. Significant penalties apply in Victoria to drivers who are caught driving with a combination of illicit drugs in their system and blood or BAC reading over the legal limit. 

The Risks Of Drinking Alcohol

Many people consider alcohol part of the Australian culture and way of life. But drinking doesn't always equate to a good time. There are harms associated with drinking too much both on a single occasion and over a lifetime. These can be serious and even life-threatening.

Consequences Of Drinking Too Much On A Single Occasion

Statistics show that the serious consequences caused by drinking too much on a single occasion generally fall into three categories:

  • Health/safety – Injury is the most likely effect (for example, falls, vehicle accidents and assaults), but you can also overdose on alcohol.
  • Legal – Alcohol contributes to criminal behaviour such as assaults, property damage, disorderly or offensive behaviour, and drink driving.
  • Social – Problems can range from losing friends because of the way you act when you're drunk to not paying bills because of excessive spending on alcohol.

National guidelines recommend that you have no more than four standard drinks on any one day to reduce your risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury. In addition, there are three guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. If four or more standard drinks put you at risk of injury, it makes sense that it may also put you and the people around you at risk of legal and social consequences.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (Bac)

Although it varies between individuals, there is a relationship between alcohol concentration in the blood (Blood Alcohol Concentration) and its effects. The body will only process around one standard drink per hour. This means, for every standard drink you have, it will take one hour for your BAC to return to 0.00g%. Alcohol starts to affect the brain within five minutes of being consumed. The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) peaks about 30 to 45 minutes after one standard drink is consumed. Rapid consumption of multiple drinks results in a higher BAC because, on average, a person can only break down one standard drink per hour.

The effects of alcohol vary depending on many factors, including:

  • type and quantity of alcohol consumed
  • age, weight and gender
  • body chemistry
  • food in the stomach
  • drinking experience
  • the situation in which drinking occurs
  • mental health status
  • other health conditions made worse by alcohol
  • other drugs or medications taken (e.g. cannabis, some pain killers, sleeping tablets).

Staying Safe When Drinking

The most important point to remember is not to drink more than the levels recommended in the national guidelines to reduce risk when drinking. On a single drinking occasion, the risk of alcohol-related injury increases with the amount consumed. For healthy men and women, drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion. However, keep in mind that having four standard drinks doubles your risk of an alcohol-related injury and your risk increases with every extra drink you have. This risk is even higher in younger people.

Consequences Of Drinking Too Much Over A Lifetime

The lifetime risk of harm from drinking alcohol increases with the amount consumed. The national guidelines state that drinking no more than ten standard drinks a week reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury for healthy men and women.

The same health/safety, legal and social harms associated with drinking too much on a single occasion apply to lifetime drinking. But as well as these harms, drinking more than recommended in the national guidelines on an ongoing basis increases the risk of many diseases and adverse effects that reduce the quality of life and cause premature death. Alcohol-related health issues include:

  • digestive disorders (for example, stomach ulcers)
  • liver disease
  • dietary deficiencies and malnutrition
  • concentration and memory problems
  • sleeping difficulties
  • mental health conditions
  • suicide and suicidal behaviour
  • brain damage with mood and personality changes
  • overweight and obesity
  • sexual impotence and reduced fertility
  • high blood pressure and stroke
  • cancers
  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes
  • heart damage
  • harms to unborn and breastfeeding babies.

Alcohol-Specific Issues


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Tolerance means a person requires more alcohol to achieve the same effect they used to get with smaller quantities because the brain compensates for the sedating effects of alcohol. The liver breaks it down more quickly. Despite this tolerance, the risk of long-term effects remain.


A person has alcohol dependence when its use has become central in their life. A lot of time is spent thinking about alcohol, obtaining it, using it and recovering from its effects. As a result, use is continued despite knowing that it is causing harm.


A common feature of dependence is that a person will experience withdrawal symptoms if they reduce or stop drinking due to increased excitability (irritability) of the brain. Typical alcohol withdrawal features last about five days and includes:

  • difficulty sleeping (may last several weeks)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • sweating
  • headache
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • shaking (tremor).
  • People drinking eight or more standard drinks per day are advised to discuss stopping drinking with their doctor as medication may be needed to prevent withdrawal complications such as seizures.

Long Term Cognitive Impairment

People who regularly drink alcohol at harmful levels have an increased risk of brain damage, including dementia.


Whilst alcohol consumption is a part of many people's social life. We encourage those who choose to drink to do so responsibly. Unfortunately, some people over-indulge and can become unruly and disruptive. This type of behaviour is unacceptable, as it may threaten the enjoyment and safety of others and may result in serious consequences.

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