Holding an Event: Legal Issues to Consider

Legal issues to consider for community events in Victoria: permits, food and alcohol regulations, and safety measures.

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The Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act (BACISOPA) was first introduced in New South Wales in March 1999 and has Public events are a popular way for organisations to engage with the community, raise awareness to their cause, and fundraise. This article will highlight some of the legal issues that community organisations should be aware of before holding a community event as a general guide. Note that laws and regulation differ depending on the state and local government area. The following considerations apply in Victoria regarding:

  1. Permits and Licenses
  2. Food and Alcohol
  3. Safety

Permits and Licenses

When using public land such as roads, footpaths and parks, you will require a valid permit from your local council. Many parks and public venues require hiring or reservation through the local council. Here are some points to consider:

  • In residential areas, particularly on weeknights, high levels of noise may be prohibited.
  • During a Fire Danger Period or a Total Fire Ban, you will require a permit to carry out certain fire related activities, such using a barbeque, open flame, or fireworks. Many municipalities prohibit open fires at any other time as well.
  • Playing music or films at a public event will require a license from the owner of the copyright. While you may have bought a hard or digital version of the song or film, this does not allow you to play it publicly without a license

Food and Alcohol

The public selling of food is subject to the Food Act 1984 (Vic). A system classifies foods from class 1 (high risk) to class 4 (low risk) and sets out the respective obligations for each class.

The legislation recognises the difference between food businesses and the sale of food at community events. It has accordingly given community groups more flexibility.

Obligations range from merely notifying the council to keeping records about how the food is handled and stored. For example, a simple sausage sizzle (but not hamburgers) at a temporary location is under Class 4, and all that is required is notifying the council. Here is simple tool for identifying your classification and applicable obligations, and for notification and registration. Note: these obligations apply even if you own or lease the premises you are selling the food from.

The community group classification system only applies to you if:

  • you sell food exclusively to raise funds for charity and mostly volunteers are handling the food; or
  • you are a ‘not-for-profit’ body.

The following circumstances are not considered to be sale of food, and are not subject to any of the obligations:

  • you are providing the food free of charge;
  • you only seek a voluntary contribution for providing the food; or
  • you donate food prepared at home to be sold elsewhere for fundraising.

Keep in mind that regardless of your statutory obligations or lack thereof, food providers may be held liable for unsafe food. If you intend to serve alcohol at your event you may require a temporary limited liquor license. You are not required to obtain a license if:

  • it is a private function where alcohol is served free of charge;
  • alcohol is supplied by a caterer who is licensed; or
  • the venue of the event is licensed.


Under the Occupational Health and Safety laws 2004 (Vic), community organisations have a duty not to expose other persons to risk, including non-employees such as volunteers and members of the public.

You may wish to ensure that first aid equipment and expertise are available at hand. Keep in mind that safety is all the more important when the event includes travel.

When working with children, it is imperative to be aware of your legal duties towards their safety and wellbeing. Originations may be held liable for the actions of their workers, regardless of whether they are employees are volunteers. Community organisations should always have a child safety policy in place.

Furthermore, when events are geared towards children, organisation workers involved may require screening. Adults, whether employees or volunteers, will require a Working with Children Check if they have contact with an unsupervised child as part of their duties. This does not apply to:

  • People under 18
  • Parent volunteers (if their child ordinarily participates in the activity)
  • People ‘closely related’ to each child they have contact with in their ‘child-related work’ (this exemption does not apply if the person is a kinship carer. A person who engages in kinship care work must hold a WWCC)
  • 18-year-old or 19-year-old students doing volunteer work organised by the student’s educational institution.

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