Planning prevents party disasters
by SANDI MILLER
25th July 2022
PARTIES ARE an excellent chance for people to get together, socialise and have fun.
For teenagers, when they may encounter their first experience of alcohol and other drugs, risky behaviour becomes more likely.
This means things like: drinking too much alcohol (sometimes called binge drinking) unprotected or non-consensual sex drink driving — or getting into a car with an intoxicated driver drink spiking drug overdose or alcohol poisoning getting into a fight getting injured Domestic security expert Naomi Oakley is encouraging parents to take greater control of teen parties with the rise of pre and post-event parties seeing teens as young as 14 getting intoxicated at friends’ homes before going on to other events.
She warns that the parents of the host teen could be liable should adverse incidents occur.
“Parents need to step up and ensure that they’re doing the right thing and not allowing the kids to roll out of their house drunk off their faces.
“There is a responsibility when these young ones leave their house after drinking.”
She says parents need to be aware of “secondary supply” legislation, which would see parents fined over $7,000 per offence for supplying alcohol to minors without written consent from parents.
“Even with a note from parents, some parents are not providing any kind of duty of care,” she said.
“What parents need to do is if they are having pre-parties — or any party really — is to make sure that the alcohol is managed properly.”
She recommends having a person that has experience serving alcohol.
“It would be great if you could use someone with a Responsible Serving of Alcohol certificate (RSA), but not everyone has that.”
She said certification could be obtained online for around $60.
“This will give parents an understanding of the effects of alcohol, responsible serving, and that sort of thing.
“When their kids come up to them and want a party, at least they have an understanding of how to observe someone who’s intoxicated, what sort of things that you can have in place to ensure that the young ones are not going to drink too much — such as a responsible person, serving or managing the alcohol; plenty of food and water, and also having a mixture of beer and wine, and moderating any sort of spirits.”
Ms Oakley said that even if the party is not at your house, parents should work together to help manage the party.
These parties are not an opportunity to drop and run to have a night without the kids.
She suggests one responsible adult for every 20 teenagers.
“Things can happen, and parents need to understand they need to make sure they cover every base, so there’s no push back on them, because you’re dealing with young ones, and you should have alert parents with the correct ratio of parents to kids.
“It might be parents serving food, parents monitoring toilets, parents watching the back fence for gate-crashers. You have a list of which parents are present and what they are doing. That might include in your bar setup, and food service.
“You know it’s always a good party when you don’t see security within, and that’s true, providing that you’ve had your parents tasked to do certain things, you have your security at the gate and parents can do something like serving food because then it’s low key.
“But then if they see anything they can get amongst the group, with some food distraction, if they still can’t sort it out, they go and get Security from the front to deal with it.”
She said parent helpers have to commit to remaining sober throughout the night because there is no point in having parents that want to “get on the sauce” because that adds to the chaos.
“If you can afford it, engage security. You should also notify the local police and your neighbours.
“We found that if you have some systems in place for these private parties, then there are strategies to ensure that the guests have a good time — safely.
“At least have parents at the front to ensure the kids have safe modes of transport.”
Naomi said she spent 13 years within Victoria Police and responded to a large portion of out-of-control parties.
“I left the police force to develop a Party Security service.
“What we found is with the events we do, and I’ve probably planned over 5,000 of these events, is if there are some boundaries in place, then the young ones will respond.
“They find it’s not over the top; they just know that we’ve got the systems to ensure they have a good night.”
She said 14 is the new 16.
“Our high-risk age is between 14 and 16 — experimenting with alcohol and other substances — and on top of that, you’ve got cabin fever, COVID lockdowns all that, and you have a lot of young ones who have been pretty anxious over the last few years as well, so there are all these factors.
“But whatever party it is, there is an absolute responsibility for parents putting on these events not only to ensure that there is parental consent for underage drinking but also to manage any party responsibly and provide a duty of care.
“With the planning that we put in place, I do a risk assessment with every event that we do, and that means meeting people at the property, liaising with the parents, and talking about the risk.
“We know the kids are the priority at the end of the day, so it’s essential to red flag all those issues.”
She said that despite all the measures, sexual assaults can still occur.
“The parents are worried that they will be liable when some of those situations happen, but because they have done everything a reasonable person could, it doesn’t come back on them.”
She said she defines any event under 30 people as a gathering, but parents still need to look at strategies for harm minimisation.
“Parents can contact me for advice; it’s not going to cost them anything, or ring me when it gets over that number.
“We say parties are over 40 to 50, and that’s when you need to start considering professional security, not private — there’s a big difference.
“Professional security is a business with the right insurance.
“If you get inexperienced guards, or your uncle, or your mates, or whoever to do it, they may not have the skills to cope when there is a fight, or someone advances on someone without consent — just about every scenario — and gate-crashers on top of that. You can minimise most of your risk with these private events, but there are some things that you also can’t predict, so it’s about just making sure that we have those plans in place to protect our young ones.
“With social media now you just need to let it drop that there’s a party at 47 Smith Street — or Snap Maps are a nightmare, kids can see where there are 200 people gathered — and the word is out.
“It is a legal minefield, and if you are going to consider having these parties, you need to make sure that you have the right systems and staff members in place to assist you with the event,” Ms Oakley said.
Naomi Oakley is the Director of U-Nome Security and provides party security, domestic violence support and safe party education. u-nomesecurity.com.au