Industry leaders agree that Melbourne is the Music Capital of Australia, its live music scene regularly outselling other cities by a comfortable margin, and given the recent report from Music Victoria that says the $1.04 billion industry is bigger than AFL, it’s hard to dispute the point.

But there’s one significant area in which there’s a significant gulf between the Victorian capital and other states that leaves Melbourne’s legislation looking more like something from the conservative dark ages: all-ages licensing.

As discussed in our opinion piece on the topic, liquor licensing laws introduced in 2004 restrict Victorian venues to host over-18s and underages events separately, and while every other Australian state is free to run all-ages shows, Melbourne is hamstrung by outdated laws that allow separate over-18s or under-18s events but very, very rarely shall the two demographics meet in the live music context.

But according to The Shoutthose restrictive conditions are set to change, with the Victorian liquor regulator releasing a public consultation paper aimed at cutting through the red tape of legislation and regulatory requirements for holding underage music events at licensed live music venues.

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation’s (VCGLR) consultation paper, entitled ‘Temporary Approval of Unaccompanied Minors On Licensed Premises’, opens with a ‘Purpose’ mission statement that reads:

The VCGLR is seeking feedback on its plans to streamline the application process for licensees seeking to host underage music events on licensed
premises. We are interested to hear from the public about this issue, particularly from licensed venues that provide live music entertainment. All feedback will be considered to determine whether the proposed reforms should be implemented or amended…

The underage licensing reform was triggered by a Live Music Roundtable, the series of discussions tabled by Music Victoria and the State Government, in which live music industry and professionals raised concerns with the VCGLR about the difficulties that current venue operators face, while underage music fans are left out in the cold when it comes to the selection of entertainment.

“The VCGLR is committed to reducing red tape and the continuous improvement of its operations,” a VCGLR spokesperson said. “Live music is an important part of Victoria’s cultural identity and we are open to reviewing our processes so that we have a balance between harm minimisation and supporting live music events in way that ensures licensed venues are safe for patrons and the broader community.” While other states have come up with simple solutions to the problem of co-ordinating underage or mixed age events… Victoria’s laws still lag behind…

While other states have come up with simple solutions to the problem of co-ordinating underage or mixed age events (such as wristbands, dividing sections into drinking and non-drinking etc.), Victoria’s laws still lag behind on 10 year old reforms first imposed in 2004.

In Victoria, to have minors on the premises, a venue must completely de-license itself for the night and lodge an application 45 days in advance of an event. Each application, which costs $178, can only contain a maximum of three gigs. Events must finish before 10pm and no one over the age of 18 is allowed in unless they area “bona fide adult superviser.” Venues must provide and pay for one ‘crowd controller’ per 100 patrons.

All in all, the long list of conditions doesn’t offer strong incentive to encourage venues to host underages events.

It’s an issue covered by Music Victoria CEO Patrick Donovan during last year’s Face The Music industry conference: “We’ve been lobbying a lot of the councils and basically suggesting, it’s just as important as the skate park or the outdoors for physical activity,” he said.

“Young people need to have that outlet for their expression, and also to be able to experience music and culture in a supervised environment,” Donovan explained.

As a result of recent Live Music Roundtable, the new discussion paper is looking to do just that, improving conditions for both music venues and young music fans to help bring about a key missing component in Melbourne’s status as ‘Rock Capital’ of Australia.

You can view the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation’s (VCGLR) consultation paper here, and have your say on cutting the red tape by emailing [email protected]  or heading to

Submissions on the consultation paper are due by 5pm on June 18.

(Photo Credit: aleksandar jason photography or ADAMNOTEVE)

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