This study explores the social, contextual and individual factors that predict early initiation of alcohol use. A state-wide representative sample of 927 fifth-grade students, in Victoria, Australia were surveyed. Students were resurveyed in the sixth and seventh grade. Risk and protective factors were measured with a modified version of the Communities That Care youth survey. Alcohol use was measured to assess transition from alcohol nonuse to use. Social contexts perceived to provide easier access to alcohol and drugs were found to be the clearest predictors of early onset alcohol use. The limitations and implications of these findings are discussed.