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'I need you to say no' campaign

‘I need you to say no’

That’s the message from young people participating in a campaign aimed at reducing the provision of alcohol to young people.

Developed as part of a Communities That Care (CTC) Youth Advisory Group project and funded by Barwon Health, the campaign urges parents to say no to providing alcohol to under 18s and is based on National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) advice.


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Learn more about the NHMRC guidelines and alcohol-related harm below:

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends that no alcohol is the safest choice for under 18s.

The NHMRC provides the following guidelines to reduce alcohol-related health harms for children and young people under 18 years of age:

  • For children and young people under 18 years of age, not drinking alcohol is the safest option.
  • Parents/guardians should be advised that teenagers under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking and that for this age group, not drinking alcohol is really important.
  • For teenagers aged 15 to 17 years, the safest option is to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible.

The Guidelines provide guidance for parents, as well as for young people themselves, about the safest option to prevent alcohol-related harm for children and young people up to 18 years of age.

Although more young Australians are delaying their first alcoholic drink, many still begin drinking before 18. In addition to experiencing negative drinking-related outcomes such as injuries and mental ill-health, early alcohol use can lead to harmful drinking practices and alcohol use disorders later in life.

Young people are at greater risk of alcohol-related harm than adults because the brain of the adolescent is not fully developed, therefore teens use emotions to process information.  This means that compared to adults, teens have reduced reasoned thinking and increased impulsiveness, making it difficult to consider consequences – increasing the likelihood of making risky decisions that can lead to numerous types of harms, including negative physical, mental, financial and social outcomes such as:

  • trouble at school or work the day after drinking
  • arguments with family members
  • alcohol-related injuries or accidents
  • violence or involvement in a fight due to alcohol
  • having sex with someone due to alcohol and regretting it later.

As the brain keeps developing into the mid-twenties, drinking alcohol as a teenager can greatly increase the risk of damage to the developing brain. It can also lead to problems with alcohol later in life.

Drinking alcohol can affect how the brain develops in those under 25. Young people under 15 years are particularly at risk. Teenage brains are still developing, and the areas of the brain that undergo the most dramatic changes during the teenage years are the frontal lobe and hippocampus. These areas are associated with motivation, impulse control, addiction and most importantly, learning and memory.

Young people are still developing skills to make good decisions and their brains do not assess risk in the same way that adult brains do, increasing the likelihood of harm or injury.

Parental influence

It’s never too early (or too late) to start talking with your child about alcohol. Your best chance to influence their attitudes and decisions is to talk openly before it happens.

Talk to your child early and often about alcohol.

Your child is more likely to be open to hearing what you have to say and accepting your rules while they are younger, rather than later in high school.

Useful tips for talking with your child about alcohol

You don’t have to be an expert, but it’s good to be prepared and ready with what you want to say and how, before you talk to your child. Think about your beliefs about underage drinking, and what your child may ask and how you might respond. You may not know all the answers, but you should be prepared to answer some difficult questions.

For example, make it clear that you don’t want your child to drink alcohol, and it can be helpful to explain why.

Parents tell us starting the discussion when you’re both relaxed is helpful – like at the dinner table, when you’re driving them somewhere, or watching TV together.

It’s important your child knows the risks associated with alcohol but at the same time, if you use scare tactics, your child may dismiss what you are saying.

This lets your child know you are interested and helps to build a relationship where they feel more willing to share information with you.

You can also talk to other parents – you might be surprised to learn that fewer parents give alcohol to their kids than your child may have you believe.

Where to go for support


Alcohol and Other Drugs Programs
03 5226 8900

YSAS – YoDAA (Youth Drugs and Alcohol Advice)

Victorian Youth Alcohol and Other Drug information, advice and referral service.

Barwon Health

1300 094 187

Family Drug Support Australia

1300 368 186


03 5222 6690

Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-Op

03 5277 0044

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