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Parents can feel concerned when young people want to have a party or attend celebrations such as a Schoolies Festival. Many worry about what can go wrong. However, parenting is about helping children learn to make good decisions in all situations, starting early. It can be rewarding to see them use the positive values you have helped them develop over time.
Parties and socialising with peers is a fun way for young people to learn personal and social skills they need as they become adults. Parties can also be an opportunity to:
- strengthen friendships and be accepted by a peer group
- make new friends
- show off friends to family
- learn planning and entertaining skills.
For parents, parties can be a chance to see their children growing up and interacting with others as they become independent adults.
If you are hosting a party for your son or daughter it is important to know your legal responsibilities. Whether the party is in your home or a venue, as the host you have a duty of care to all your guests. There may be legal consequences if you breach your duty of care. For example, if someone acts illegally or is hurt you may be held legally and financially responsible.
You have an added responsibility to supervise guests under eighteen years (minors), particularly if there will be alcohol at the party. It is a good idea to inform parents of under-age guests if alcohol will be served. While it is not illegal for a minor to drink alcohol in a private home, you are responsible for ensuring everyone’s safety. If there is an injury or any property damage, a lack of supervision may be considered negligence under the law. For more information about alcohol and teenage parties visit www.lawhandbook.sa.gov.au.
As the party host you are responsible for the supervision and safety of all guests, in particular those under eighteen years of age.
Plan the party with your son or daughter and agree on the ground rules before the party is announced. It can help to make a list of all the things you agree on.
Agree together about:
- the party budget and who will pay for what
- how many friends will come
- how the music will be managed and what time it will be turned off
- what food will be served
- what activities you will have - a pool table, jukebox, dancing, karaoke, games or competitions can take the focus off drinking
- whether smoking will be allowed, and if so, where
- whether to have alcohol, how to control the amount, and the things you need to do as the adult responsible for party safety
- what to do if someone gets sick or drunk
- how to respond if drugs are used
- what rooms in the house will be off limits
- how guests will get home. This is especially important for people living in country areas
- who will set up for the party and clean up afterwards. Expect your son or daughter to help.
- how invitations will be sent (e.g. by mail, phone or email).
Discourage sending invitations by social media or SMS texts as they could be passed on to others. Let guests know it is invitation-only. Written invitations are a good way of letting guests know what to expect, e.g. any party theme, dress code, special occasion, whether alcohol will be provided or allowed, time the party will start and end, where to park, and how to RSVP. Invitations can also be shown by guests to gain entry to the party
It is important to work out who will make the ground rules known to the guests, and how this will be done.
It also helps to:
- check with police about noise regulations. Test your sound system to see how far the noise carries. Put someone in charge of sound on the night and keep within the acceptable volume level. Neighbours can make a complaint about excessive noise any time of the day or night
- notify the police about the party as a safety precaution. Complete a SAPOL Party Safe Notification Form and lodge it with your local police station one week prior to the party. Don’t forget to let them know if the party is cancelled
- advise neighbours about the party. Some families do a letterbox drop the week before and provide a number to call if they have a complaint on the night
- have a plan for dealing with gate crashers. Managing the entry point to the party is very important. Some parents hire a person from a security company with skills in managing crowds and uninvited guests
- make sure the venue is suitable for the number of guests, e.g. enough space and toilet facilities, and adequate lighting to ensure safety
- check the extent of your insurance coverage
- get parents’ phone numbers in case you need to contact them
- have spare bedding ready.
It is important to negotiate the details of the party with your teen, but don’t forget you are the adult who is legally responsible for the safety of all people at the party. You might have to make some unpopular decisions.
Keep the party venue safe and secure by:
- having only one entrance/exit
- making sure your driveway is kept clear in case you need emergency access
- having a list of invited guests at the door or requiring people to show their invitation. Calmly and politely ask people who have not been invited to leave. At the first sign of trouble call the police on 131 444 for non-urgent attendance. Call 000 if there is an emergency
- keeping an eye on what’s happening by wandering around the party and ensuring guests are safe – don’t just stay in the kitchen
- checking on areas of the house that are restricted
- checking the garden and boundaries, ensuring gates and side entries remain secure
- not allowing guest ‘pass-outs’, and ensuring guests stay on the property and don’t gather in the street. You are still responsible for guests around the party vicinity.
Have responsible adult/s who:
- are willing to not drink or take drugs during the party
- know how to deal calmly with difficult situations
- have access to a first aid kit, know what to do in an emergency, and have emergency numbers and a mobile phone on them.
If you don’t allow alcohol:
- be prepared to act if you find some young people drinking. You are responsible for their safety in your home and their parents expect it of you. It can be difficult and embarrassing but it is important to remind them this wasn’t agreed to
- remove the alcohol and tell them you will take care of it while they are in your home.
If you do allow alcohol:
- make this clear to parents beforehand
- ensure young people under 18 years don’t take alcohol from the party to drink somewhere else. If you know they’re doing this you could be held responsible if anything happens. While they can legally consume alcohol on private premises it is against the law for them to drink alcohol in any public place, e.g. on the footpath, near their cars or in a nearby park, unless they are with their parent or guardian
- make sure food is easily accessible throughout the party but remember that salty nuts, chips and crackers make people thirsty
- control how much alcohol is consumed
- consider providing the alcohol yourself rather than letting guests bring their own. Have a responsible adult serving it away from where people are gathering
- use small plastic glasses and discourage stubbies and cans
- don’t let people top up drinks - it’s harder to keep track of how much alcohol is being consumed
- don’t allow drinking games
- only provide light alcohol options
- supply alternatives to alcohol, including water, soft drinks and juice as spacers
- stop serving someone who is drunk. Remain calm and polite to avoid arguments
- suggest drivers give you their keys when they arrive. Remember, it is against the law for a person on P plates to have any alcohol in their system if driving
- consider having a ’chill’ part of the house in case someone needs space. Check on them to make sure they are OK
- stop serving alcohol, turn lights up and music down a half hour before the party is due to end so guests can leave at the agreed time.
To ensure the safety and wellbeing of your teen when attending someone else’s party:
- speak to the parents beforehand to check who will be supervising the party. Ask for a contact number for the house
- ask if there will be alcohol and be clear about whether it is OK for your teen to drink or not
- decide on transport arrangements to and from the party. Have a back-up plan if your teen wants to leave early
- make sure they can contact you during the party if needed
- discuss what time you expect them home and be clear about the consequences if this doesn’t happen.
It is OK to go to the door when you drop your son or daughter off if you are a bit concerned. Don’t be afraid to also go to the door when you pick them up.
If you don’t think the party is suitable for your teen to attend be calm and clear about your reasons. Their safety and wellbeing is your responsibility.
Finishing high school is a big milestone for many young South Australians. Parents often worry about whether to let their son or daughter attend a school leavers’ celebration because of negative images in the media. However, it may help to know that in South Australia the Schoolies Festival is the shortest in Australia (3 nights) and has a lot of adult support for those attending.
If you decide it is OK for your teen to attend a Schoolies Festival, planning early before they make agreements with friends is important. Open communication that includes the expectations you both have is a good place to start. From there you can work out together how they can have fun while keeping safe.
It helps to agree on:
- who they will go with
- how they will get there and back
- where they will stay
- what they will do while there
- how they will pay for things
- how they will keep themselves safe
- their back-up strategies if things don’t work out as planned
- what they will do in an emergency
- how they will keep in contact with you.
Visit the Encounter Youth website for information about the event and tips for parents on helping young people stay safe. You can download the free Motor Accident Commission Schoolies Festival App to find out about activities, the free bus route and support services for young people.