Australian Classification Board

Classification Board
Agency overview
Formed 1970 (1970) (as Australian Classification Board)
Jurisdiction Commonwealth of Australia
Minister responsible
Parent agency Attorney-General's Department (current parent agency), OFLC (Original parent agency), Australian Classification Review Board (sister agency)

The Classification Board (CB) is an Australian statutory classification and censorship body formed by the Australian Government which classifies films, video games and publications for exhibition, sale or hire in Australia since its establishment in 1995. The Classification Board was originally incorporated in the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) which was dissolved in 2006.

The Classification Board does not directly censor material by ordering cuts or changes. However, they are able to effectively censor media by refusing classification and making the media illegal for hire, exhibition and importation to Australia. The Attorney-General's Department now provides administrative support to the Board and decisions made by the Board may be reviewed by the Australian Classification Review Board,[1] which is a part of the Attorney-General's Department.

The system has several levels of "restricted" categories, prohibiting sale, exhibition or use of some materials to those who are under a prescribed age. In 2005, video and computer games became subject to the same classification ratings and restrictions as films (with the exception of the R18+ and X18+ ratings), in response to confusion by parents.[2] Despite a line in the National Classification Code stating that "adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want", the adult R18+ classification did not exist for video games in Australia until 1 January 2013.[3]


In 1970, a newly formed classification system and body named the Australian Classification Board was created to rate all films (and later in 1994, video games) that came into Australia. In the early years of the system, there were four ratings:

In 1993, the CB introduced the MA15+ rating as a means of flagging content that was too strong for the M classification, but not so much so that the content should be restricted only to persons over the age of 18.[4] The introduction of the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) occurred in 1994. The OFLC oversaw the Classification Board. In 2005 the OFLC was dissolved and the Classification Board was handed over to the Attorney-General's Department. The current coloured classification markings for films and computer games were introduced in May 2005.[5]

In August 2014, the Australian Classification Board introduced amendments which allows for the automated classification process employed by the International Age Rating Coalition. This new process reduces the costs of video game developers as they seek to obtain ratings for their products that are distributed digitally online.[6]


The Board operates on a procedure that primarily involves decision-making. The members must communicate their views clearly and appreciate the views of others. The Board members would be exposed to a wide range of material, including content that is confronting and offensive. Every film and computer game has to be classified before it can be legally made available to the public. Some publications also need to be classified. Failure to give classification (especially for unclassified material that is likely to be classified RC) is an implicit ban (except for exempt films, games, and publications). It is an offence "to display, demonstrate, sell, hire, publicly exhibit or advertise a film or computer game" without having it classified. Some films and documentaries (such as current affairs and those created for business, scientific and education purposes) are exempt from classification unless, if classified, they'd be M or above.[7]

There are legal age restrictions for the ratings of MA15+ and R18+. X18+ is a special restriction rating for adult content. The other classification categories (G, PG and M) are merely recommendations and they are not submitted to legal age restrictions. RC (banned) material cannot be sold, hired or distributed to any persons. A film or video game's context is crucial in determining whether a classifiable element is justified by the story-line or themes.

The Classification Board decides what consumer advice accompanies each classification. They indicate the elements in films and computer games which caused the classification and help consumers make choices about what they read, view or play. There are six classifiable elements for films: themes (rape, suicide, racism, etc.), violence (the level of violence and how threatening it is in its context), sex (intercourse and references to sex), language (the level of coarse language), drug use (the use of, and references to, drugs) and nudity (the explicitness of nudity). Consumer advice appears with the classification symbol on products, packaging and in advertisements. Consumer advice is not given if the element in question would be acceptable at a lower classification.[8]

The Classification Board also classifies material submitted from the police, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and the Australian Communications and Media Authority. The Board does not classify live performances, audio CDs and television shows. Television is regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.[9]

Film and video game classifications


The classifications below are unrestricted and may require parental advisory but do not impose any legal restrictions on access to or distribution of material.[10][11]


By contrast, the classifications below are legally restricted: it is illegal to sell or exhibit material so classified to anyone younger than the mentioned minimum age.[10][11]

Other labels

Literature ratings

Publications such as books and magazines (though they would also include other printed media such as calendars, cards and catalogues, among other things) are required to be classified if they contain depictions and/or descriptions of sexuality, drugs, nudity or violence that are unsuitable for a minor or even an adult who would take offence if sold as an unrestricted publication.

Publication classifications are most commonly applied to magazines with visual depictions of nudity or sexual activity, such as many men's magazines. It is uncommon for these ratings to appear on books, even those dealing with adult themes, except in the most controversial cases.


The Restricted publications are for adults and they are not to be sold to people under 18 (and in Queensland under state law). They have content, such as nudity or explicit sexual content, that could offend some sections of the adult community. The Restricted categories are subject to various restrictions in different states; for example, one or both categories may only be sold in adults-only premises in certain states. For this reason, some adult magazines are published in two editions in Australia, or just one edited edition which can be sold anywhere with a warning, as Unrestricted Mature.



Video games

Video gaming censorship in Australia is considered to be one of the strictest in the western world.[21]

Adult ratings for video games

Many games were banned before 2011 on the basis that the R18+ rating for games did not exist at the time. This was the subject of complaint in the gaming community, who argued that there is no reason why adults should be prevented from seeing content in games that they could see in a film. One of the main opponents to the introduction of a R18+ rating for video games was the former South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson who vetoed every attempt to induce one.[26]

On 11 August 2010, at a public forum, then opposition leader Tony Abbott was asked a question about his views on the absence of an R18+ rating for video games and whether he has any policies relating to the subject, saying, "if what happens with video games is not roughly analogous to what happens in other areas, that seems silly...Instinctively I'm with you, and it's something I'd be happy to look at, if we are in Government."[27][28][29][30] In December 2010, Attorney General Robert McClelland appears to be moving on this issue following the release of telephone poll results conducted by the Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor, showing roughly 80% in support of a R18+ classification.[31]

On 22 July 2011, at a meeting of State and Territories' Attorneys General, an agreement was reached for the introduction of an R18+ classification. It was planned to introduce it towards the end of 2011.[32] On 22 July 2011, a meeting of Attorneys-General produced an in-principle agreement to introduce the R18+ classification for video games; however, NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith abstained from the vote. The Home Affairs Minister, Brendan O'Connor, has said the federal government would over-ride NSW and implement the R18+ rating regardless of its decision and will be officially available before the end of 2011.[33] On 10 August the NSW Attorney General agreed on the R18+ thus the rating would be accepted and available to all states before the end of 2011.[34][35]

As of 1 January 2013, the R18+ rating has been officially implemented for video games though is apparently not being used to full effect as many games are still being refused classification.[36] Michael Atkinson, who was the South Australian Attorney-General until 2010, was a continuous opponent against the introduction of the R18+ classification, and actively blocked the release of a discussion paper until just before his retirement from cabinet that canvassed the opinion of the Australian public on whether or not an R18+ classification should be introduced.

The first game to be released with an R18+ rating was Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus. The game Saints Row IV became the first game to be refused classification under the new standard on 25 June 2013.[37] State of Decay became the second game to be refused classification less than 24 hours after the first (Saints Row IV) was banned.[38]

See also


  1. "Review Board | Australian Classification". Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  2. "Games get film ratings". The Daily Telegraph (1 – State ed.). 6 July 2005. p. 11. Archived from the original on 9 June 2005.
  3. The Classification Code; May 2005
  4. "Censorship Classifications". Sydney Morning Herald. 1 July 1973. p. 87. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
  5. Annual Report 2004–2005
  9. Canna, Xavier La (6 June 2005). "New classifications pave way for R-rated games". The Age. Australia. p. 7. Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  10. 1 2 "Information for Parents: Classification categories explained". Australian Classification Board. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  11. 1 2 Clare, Jason (Minister for Justice) (10 December 2012). "Guidelines for the Classification of Films 2012". Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  12. "Is it exempt?". Australian Classification Board. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  13. Minister asks censors to reassess approval of sadistic film. SMH (17 April 2010).
  14. 1 2 "Romance (1999)". Retrieved 9 December 2011.
  15. OFLC Classification Review Board Report re Baisez-Moi.
  16. OFLC Classifies Baise-Moi R18+.
  18. Needham, Kirsty (7 April 2003). "Police quiz critic after raid". Sydney Morning Herald. p. 5. Retrieved 2007-05-30.
  19. World Socialist Web Site report into the screening of Ken Park. (10 July 2003)
  20. Maddox, Garry (18 June 2003). "Debus wants festival film rethink". The Sydney Morning Herald. p. 9. ISSN 0312-6315. Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  21. "Australia & New Zealand". OpenNet.
  22. IGN: Aussie GTA IV Censorship Update.
  23. OFLC listing for Fallout 3. Retrieved 12 July 2008.
  24. ''Fallout 3'' Officially Refused Classification in Australia.
  25. "Fallout 3 Censorship Report". IGN. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  26. Lake, Chloe (27 February 2008). "Attorney-general opposes R rating for games". News Limited. Retrieved 27 February 2008.
  27. Madigan, Michael; Packham, Ben (11 August 2010). "Tony Abbott Q&A from Rooty Hill". The Courier Mail. News Limited.
  28. Wildgoose, David (12 August 2010). "Tony Abbott: "Happy To Look At" R18+ Rating". Kotaku.
  29. LeMay, Renai (11 August 2010). "Abbott pledges R18+ gaming review". iTWire.
  30. LeMay, Renai (11 August 2010). "Abbott pledges R18+ gaming review". Delimiter. LeMay & Galt Media.
  31. "An R 18+ Classification for Computer Games". Attorney-General's Department. Commonwealth of Australia. 8 December 2010.
  32. "'Historic agreement' on R18+ video games". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. 22 July 2011. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  33. Asher Moses, Ben Grubb (22 July 2011). "'Historic agreement' on R18+ video games". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
  34. NSW backs R18+ for games, By Laura Parker, 9 August 2011 –
  35. "Governments agree on R18+ games rating". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Company. 22 July 2011. Retrieved 3 November 2011.
  36. "Gamers get adults-only R18+ classification". AAP. 18 June 2012.
  37. 25 June 2013: ‘Saints Row IV’ first computer game Refused Classification. Australian Classification Board, 25 June 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  38. 26 June 2013: "Second video game – State of Decay – banned in Australia"., 26 June 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2013.

External links

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