Alcohol and Tobacco Black-Markets in Australia: Historical Perspectives

Dr Vicky Nagy1, Dr Thomas Kehoe

1University Of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia
2Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne , Australia

The sale and distribution of illicit alcohol and tobacco produced in Australia has a long history. Government attempts to control the sale of alcohol, enforce prohibition, and seize “sly grog” manufactured on the goldfields in Victoria between 1851 and 1853 led to heavy fines being levied and in extreme circumstance the burning down of tents and huts. This was done in the name of curbing violence and other crimes. However, while the black-market trade of alcohol often continued, corruption was of concern with police (troopers) blackmailing “grog” sellers. Since then, the black-market in alcohol has declined over time in Australia, however, illicit tobacco has since colonisation been an ongoing concern to various colonial and later state governments. Although there are no authorised tobacco growers or manufacturers in Australia, this is a lucrative trade. Often linked to organised crime, there have been 63 operations since 2016 aimed at seizing and destroying illegally grown or sold tobacco, with 11 convictions to date.

In this paper we consider the history of alcohol and tobacco black-markets in Australia to trace how certain types of black-market crime may wane while others thrive, and the responses that these crime types have elicited over the years from the criminal justice system. We argue that this look back to antecedents of contemporary black-markets can provide examples of measures that have been successful or alternatively, backfired.


Dr Vicky Nagy is a Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Tasmania. Vicky is the convenor of the Australian and New Zealand Historical Criminology Network, a thematic group of ANZSOC. Her research expertise is on building links between historical crimes and contemporary issues in criminal justice in Australia. Her most recent publications have covered topics such as historical homicide offending, and older women’s health in prison pre-1920, as well as contemporary criminological explorations of contract cheating.


Aug 30 2021


8:00 am - 6:00 pm