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History of the RSA course in Australia

The Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) is an essential course for anyone working in the hospitality industry. Regulation of alcohol service and distribution isn’t new–for countless years, governments have been making attempts to control alcohol-related harm by enacting laws and regulations that require individuals working in the service or sale of alcohol to undergo training.

It is important for anyone working in the hospitality industry to understand their responsibilities when it comes to serving alcohol. In today’s article, we’ll explore a brief history of Australia’s alcohol service regulation and the RSA.

What is an RSA?

The Responsible Service of Alcohol is a certificate that educates individuals about the laws and regulations surrounding alcohol sales and service in Australia. There are a number of different elements that are taught in the RSA course.

The course covers topics such as:

  • The importance of responsible service of alcohol in promoting a safe environment for both staff and customers
  • Understanding the effects of alcohol on individuals, including physical and behavioural changes
  • Strategies for refusing service to intoxicated or underage patrons
  • Techniques for managing difficult situations involving alcohol, such as aggression or violence
  • Laws and regulations surrounding the sale and service of alcohol in Australia, including licensing requirements and penalties for non-compliance.

This knowledge is crucial in maintaining a safe and responsible environment for customers and employees alike within venues that serve and supply alcohol.

A brief history of alcohol sale and service regulation in Australia

Alcohol laws have often differed from state to state in Australia. For example, Victoria in the mid-1800s saw bottle shops having their own licensing conditions. In the state during this time, licensed grocers could “sell and dispose of liquor in bottles containing not less than a pint and in quantities not exceeding two gallons and…not to be drunk in or near the house or premises in which such liquor is sold”. The late 19th century saw the anti-alcohol temperance movement that led to multiple changes to alcohol regulation in the state. This was followed by the “six o’clock swill”, before liquor laws started to become less strict in the late 1960s. The period from the sixties through eighties saw a number of bottle shops opening.

In New South Wales, the idea of the responsible service of alcohol has been around for almost a century. The Liquor Act of 1912 prohibited licensees from allowing drunkenness on a licensed premises (with the responsibility of this falling on the licensee and employees). In the 1970s, the Registered Club Act was brought in for additional regulations regarding the management of registered clubs. 1996 saw both Acts amended to include harm minimisation. The Liquor Act 2007 consolidated both of these Acts into one.

Once Queensland separated from New South Wales in 1859, it had to make separate laws from the state. The first independent liquor law created in Queensland was the Publicans Act of 1863. This Act provided two types of licences: a Packet licence which pertained to the sale of alcohol on ships, and a Publicans licence which allowed individuals to “retail fermented and spirituous liquors”.

This Act was followed by the Licensing Act 1885 that provided four categories of licence (wine-seller’s licence, packet licence, licensed victualler’s licence, and billiard or bagatelle licence). With the Licensing Act 1885, liquor was only allowed to be sold during specifically outlined times (and prohibited sale of liquor on Sunday). It also had a “home brew” exemption and stipulations on the minimum age to purchase alcohol for different individuals. The legal age of drinking in Queensland was increased to 21 years with the Liquor Act 1912 (QLD). The state did not introduce the “six o’clock swill”, and in 1941, trading hours were changed to allow sale and service of alcohol between 10am and 10pm. The latest liquor Act in Queensland is the Liquor Act 1992.

The Australian Capital Territory was the only state/territory to introduce alcohol prohibition laws. Between the years 1911 and 1928, the ACT (or Federal Capital Territory as it was known at the time) banned new liquor licences. However, it’s worth noting that it was still possible to legally bring alcohol across the New South Wales border during this time. In 1928, ACT residents voted to overturn this law.

The history of the RSA course in Australia

The RSA in its earliest form was first brought into NSW in 1830 with the Publicans Licensing Acts Consolidation Act (1830). This Act saw a number of licensing Acts that existed in the state brought into the one. It was described as ” an Act to amend and consolidate the Laws now in force relative to the licensing and regulating of Public-houses and for the better regulating the granting of Licences for the sale of Ale Beer Wine Spirits and other Liquors in New South Wales”. Other states and territories followed suit and began bringing in their own laws regarding the responsible service of alcohol.

The RSA being a mandatory requirement for those selling or supplying liquor is a more recent occurrence in many states. For example, in Queensland, it only became mandatory for relevant persons working within the Queensland liquor industry to hold a valid RSA in January 2009

How long is an RSA course?

An RSA course typically takes 1-2 days of study to complete. Those that choose to undertake their RSA course online will be able to complete it at their own pace. Most courses require a final assessment, and upon successful completion of this, an RSA certificate is issued. It’s important to note that the laws regarding RSA certification may differ from state to state. For example, some states require mandatory face-to-face training, while others will allow individuals to complete an online RSA course.

What is covered in an RSA course?

The Responsible Service of Alcohol certification covers a number of different topics related to the sale, supply, and consumption of alcohol. When you undertake an RSA course, you’ll be taught the following:

  • Strategies for responsible service and harm minimisation
  • Law and legislation surrounding the sale and service of alcohol
  • Legal responsibilities of both licensees and their employees
  • Identifying when an individual has had too much to drink and how to refuse service accordingly

Overall, an RSA course aims to provide participants with the necessary knowledge and skills to ensure the responsible service of alcohol. This is crucial for maintaining the health and safety of individuals, as well as ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

Why choose Express Online Training for your RSA course?

Express Online Training is a fully accredited Registered Training Organisation providing the online RSA course across a number of Australian states and territories. We currently offer online RSA certificates that can be used for employment in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, and Tasmania. Those wishing to work within the alcohol supply and service industry in New South Wales and Victoria will need to complete their RSA course in a face-to-face classroom.

There are many reasons to choose Express Online Training for your online RSA course. Our courses are available 24/7, so you can work through them at a time that suits your schedule. To help with this, the courses can also be paused and resumed as needed, with progress saved, allowing students to complete the course across multiple different devices. We provide local support 7 days a week, including late on weekdays, and are happy to chat through any issues you may run into while completing your RSA.

Express Online Training offers a Start Now – Pay Later option, plus Afterpay, which lets you break the cost of the course into 4 interest-free payments. We’ll also beat any competitor price by 10%.

Australia has a long history of alcohol sale and supply laws and regulation. From the first iteration of the RSA we know today introduced in the Publicans Licensing Acts Consolidation Act to the 17-year alcohol prohibition that occurred in the ACT from 1911 to 1928, the fascinating story of alcohol legislation in Australia showcases its importance and evolution over time.

When it comes to completing an RSA course, consider choosing Express Online Training for a convenient, affordable, and supportive experience.


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    RSA Competency Check

    Have you completed an accredited RSA course previously?

    Do you hold any of the following?

    Current or Recently Expired NSW RSA Competency Card

    If you have a current Competency Card you cannot re-complete the course to renew it while it is current. This includes any learners in the 28 day renewal period or who have a current NSW RSA Competency Card endorsement but have not received their card.

    You can check if you have a Current Competency Card or endorsement here

    If you choose to continue you must declare below that you understand that your existing competency card endorsement(s) will not be renewed. By continuing you accept responsibility for providing correct and accurate information about your NSW RSA currency and understand that should you be found ineligible to undertake the course or renew your NSW RSA you may not be entitled to a refund.

    NSW RSA Interim Certificate issued within 5 years from the "Valid for duties date"

    If you have a current NSW RSA interim certificate issued within 5 years from the "Valid for duties" you cannot complete the NSW RSA course again. You must visit a Service NSW centre with your Interim Certificate to obtain your card.

    You can check if you have a Current Competency Card or endorsement here

    By continuing you accept responsibility for providing correct and accurate information about your NSW RSA currency, understanding that this will not renew your NSW RSA and that should you be found ineligible to undertake or renew your NSW RSA by completing the course you may not be entitled to a refund.

    Is your RSA current and issued by a Registered Training Organisation or a state/territory approved training organisation?

    Are you planning to reside permanently in NSW?

    You may be eligible to receive the NSW RSA by completing a bridging course

    If you wish to apply to Liquor & Gaming NSW to complete their RSA bridging course, please note that EOT cannot confirm if your interstate RSA will be accepted, and it is your responsibility to research and confirm you meet the eligibility requirements.

    You may be eligible to work temporarily in NSW using your current RSA

    If you wish to temporarily work in NSW under Automatic Mutual Recognition, please note that EOT cannot confirm if your interstate RSA is eligible, and it is your cresponsibility to research and confirm you meet the eligibility requirements before commencing work in NSW.