The health and social consequences of risky drinking among young people have attracted considerable media attention, highlighted by the recent Australian Government’s attempt to increase the tax on the so-called ‘alcopops’. While many young people drink in a relatively low risk way on most occasions, a significant proportion do drink hazardously, at least occasionally, and many are starting to drink at an earlier age, and drinking more than in the past, with young women drinking more like their male counterparts. Risky drinking, especially among Indigenous young people, those living in the country, and young men, poses serious health, social and legal problems for young people themselves, and Australia generally. Explanations for risky drinking draw upon cultural, social, biophysical and structural factors. Current strategies to tackle this issue include school-based and community education, attitudinal and normative approaches, family-based interventions, controls on the availability and sale of alcohol, controls on the promotion of alcohol, law enforcement, and community mobilisation. The international evidence for what works is clear: universal interventions such as controls on the physical and economic availability of alcohol; better law enforcement around liquor licensing; broad-spectrum and targeted early intervention at key developmental stages; and investments in brief intervention, treatment and harm reduction. Alcohol has been an integral part of Australian life since the days of European settlement and young people’s drinking needs to be seen in this wider context. While alcohol has social, symbolic and economic benefits, there are many adverse consequences for the whole population.