Australian Classification Board

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Classification Board
Agency overview
Formed 1970
Jurisdiction Commonwealth of Australia
Minister responsible George Brandis, Attorney-General
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 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 Attorney-General's Department now provides administrative support to the Board. Decisions made by the Board may be reviewed by the Australian Classification Review Board.


The Classification Board is a statutory body established by the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (Cth). This Act also provides a basis for the National Classification Code which guides their decision making. As the State and Territory governments retain responsibility for enforcing censorship and could withdraw from or ignore the national classification scheme if they so wished, any changes to the national classification scheme must be agreed to by all the State and Territory Censorship Ministers (usually Attorneys-General). Despite this South Australia still maintains a separate Classification Council which can override national classification decisions in that state.

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.


1970 saw the introduction of a newly formed classification system and body named the Australian Classification Board, a federal body that was created to rate all films (and later in 1994, video games) that come into Australia. In the early years of the system, there were four ratings: G, for "General Exhibition"; NRC, "Not Recommended for Children"; M, for "Mature Audiences"; and R, for "Restricted Exhibition".[1] NRC later became PG and R became R18+, the G and M ratings were kept.

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.

The introduction of the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) occurred in 1994. The OFLC overlooked the Classification Board. In 2005 the OFLC was dissolved and the Classification Board was handed over to the Attorney-General's Department.

On 22 July 2011, a meeting of Attorneys-General produced an in-principle agreement to introduce the R18+ classification for videogames; 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.[2] 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 and O'Connor did not need to use the federal government to intervene.[3]

On 1 January 2013, the R18+ rating for video games was implemented into the classification guidelines.


Certain officials were concerned the appointment of Donald McDonald as Director in 2007 facilitated the Government's ability to control or restrict material, in particular that which incites or instructs terrorism.[4] McDonald was also pressured to step down after the ban of Salò lifted.

Classification of film[edit]

In 2010, the ACB classified an uncut version of Salò R18+, mainly due to extra material providing greater context. It had been banned since 1997 with two failed attempts since then.

Classification of video and computer games[edit]

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 prior to 1 January 2013 did not exist for video games.[5] 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. In protest, a new political party was formed, Gamers 4 Croydon, to contest several seats including Atkinson's seat of Croydon at the 2010 SA election, where they contributed to a 15.5% swing against him.[6] In July 2011, the R18+ rating was announced and was scheduled to be introduced before the end of the year.[2][7] However, the R18+ rating was delayed again. 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..[8] The first game to be released with an R18+ was Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus.

Film and video game classifications[edit]


The classifications below are unrestricted and may require advisory – they do not impose any legal restrictions on access or distribution of material.[9]

OFLC small E.svg Exempt for classification.png

  • Exempt (E) – Only very specific types of material (including educational material and artistic performances) can be exempt from classification, and the material cannot contain anything that exceeds the constraints of the PG classification.[10] The assessment of exemption may be made by the distributor or exhibitor (self-assessed) without needing to submit the product for certification by the Classification Board. Self-assessed exempt films cannot use the official marking, although it is advised that films and computer games that are self-assessed as exempt display "This film/computer game is exempt from classification".[citation needed] There are no impact levels.

G tag.svg OFLC large G.svg

  • General (G) – Contains material intended for general viewing. G does not necessarily designate a children's film or game. The content is very mild in impact.

PG.svg OFLC large PG.svg

  • Parental Guidance (PG) – Contains material that young children may find confusing or upsetting. The content is mild in impact.

M.svg OFLC large M.svg

  • Mature (M) – Contains material that may require a mature perspective but is not deemed too strong for younger viewers. Not recommended for young children but not legally restricted. The content is moderate in impact.


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.[9]

MA.svg OFLC large MA15+.svg

  • Mature Accompanied (MA15+) – Contains material that is considered unsuitable for exhibition by persons under the age of 15. People under 15 may only legally purchase, rent, exhibit or view MA15+ rated content under the supervision of an adult guardian. The content is strong in impact.

OFLC small R18+.svg OFLC large R18+.svg

  • Restricted (R18+) – Contains material that is considered unsuitable for exhibition by persons under the age of 18. People under 18 may not legally buy, rent, exhibit or view R18+ classified content. The content is high in impact.

X18.svg OFLC large X18+.svg

  • Restricted (X18+) – Contains material that is pornographic in nature. People under 18 may not buy, rent, exhibit or view these films. The exhibition or sale of these films to people under the age of 18 years is a criminal offence carrying a maximum fine of $5,500.

This rating applies to films with unsimulated sexual content only. Films classified as X18+ are banned (via state government legislation) from being sold or rented in all Australian states (but are legal to possess, except in certain parts of the Northern Territory) and are only legally available to purchase in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Importing X18+ material from these territories to any of the Australian states is legal (as the Australian Constitution forbids any restrictions on trade between the states and territories). The content is sexually explicit in impact, and does not exist for video games.


  • RC (Refused Classification) – Contains material that is considered to offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that it should not be classified. The content is very high in impact.
    • Films and games that exceed the X18+ & R18+ ratings (respectively) are Refused Classification by the ACB. Content which may be Refused Classification include:
      • Detailed instruction or promotion in matters of crime or violence.
      • The promotion or provision of instruction in paedophile activity.
      • Descriptions or depictions of child sexual abuse or any other exploitative or offensive descriptions or depictions involving a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 years.
      • Gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of:
        • (i) violence with a very high degree of impact or which are excessively frequent, prolonged or detailed;
        • (ii) cruelty or real violence which are very detailed or which have an extremely high impact;
        • (iii) sexual violence
      • Depictions of practices such as bestiality, necrophilia or other practices that are revolting or abhorrent.
      • Gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of:
        • (i) activity accompanied by fetishes or practices that are offensive or abhorrent;
        • (ii) incest fantasies or other fantasies that are offensive or abhorrent

Classification is mandatory, and films that are rated Refused Classification by the ACB are banned for sale, hire or public exhibition, carrying a maximum fine of $275,000 and/or 10 years' jail if an individual/organisation is found to be in breach of this. It is, however, legal to possess RC films and games (except in Western Australia and certain parts of the Northern Territory), unless they contain illegal content (e.g. child pornography).

The game Saints Row IV became the first game to be refused classification under the new standard on 25 June 2013.[11] State of Decay became the second game to be refused classification less than 24 hours after the first (Saints Row IV) was banned.[12]


  • Check the Classification (CTC) – The content has been assessed and approved for advertising unclassified films and computer games.
    • Any advertising of unclassified films and games must display the CTC message on posters, trailers, on the internet, and any other types of advertising.
    • Once the content is classified, the classification marking should replace the CTC marking on all advertising material.

Previous video game ratings[edit]

These ratings are still shown on some older video games that are still on sale in Australia:

G – General : The G classification is for a general audience.
OFLC Rating: G8+ G8+ – General for children over 8 years of age: Material classified G8+ may contain material which especially younger children find confusing or upsetting. This rating has since been changed to PG to parallel that of film ratings.
OFLC Rating: M15+ M15+ – Mature: Despite the title, material classified M15+ is not recommended for people under 15 years of age. Nonetheless, there are no legal restrictions on access. This rating has since been changed to M to parallel film ratings.
OFLC Rating: MA15+ (Mature Restricted) MA15+ – Mature Accompanied (Restricted): Material classified MA15+ is considered unsuitable for people under 15 years of age. It is a legally restricted category. People under the age of 15 are not allowed to purchase, hire or otherwise exhibit MA15+ content unless accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.

Literature ratings[edit]

Literature only needs to be classified if it contains anything that might lead to a Category 1 classification or higher. Literature 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.

Unrestricted – Unrestricted

Unrestricted Mature – Unrestricted – Mature- Not recommended for readers under 15.

Restricted Category 1 – Restricted Category 1 – Not available to persons under 18 years.

Restricted Category 2 – Restricted Category 2 – Not available to persons under 18 years. Contains more explicit images than what is permissible under Category 1.

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.

Any classified literature that does NOT fall into any of the above categories is rated Refused Classification (Banned).


In 2008, the board made a decision on whether or not nude photos displayed in an exhibition of work by Bill Henson should have been removed or not. The review found the photograph was "mild and justified".[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Censorship Classifications". Sydney Morning Herald. 1 July 1973. p. 87. Retrieved 18 September 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Asher Moses, Ben Grubb (22 July 2011). "'Historic agreement' on R18+ video games". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 July 2011. 
  3. ^ NSW backs R18+ for games, By Laura Parker, 9 August 2011 –
  4. ^ Censure as PM's pal turns censor by Peter Ker, 14 April 2007,
  5. ^ The Classification Code; May 2005[dead link]
  6. ^ ECSA: 2010 election results
  7. ^ "Governments agree on R18+ games rating". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Company. 22 July 2011. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  8. ^ "Gamers get adults-only R18+ classification". AAP. 18 June 2012. 
  9. ^ a b "Classification markings on film and computer games". Australian Classification Board. Retrieved 1 June 2012. 
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ 25 June 2013: ‘Saints Row IV’ first computer game Refused Classification. Australian Classification Board, 25 June 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  12. ^ 26 June 2013: `Second video game – State of Decay – banned in Australia., 26 June 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  13. ^ "Police clear Australian artist of pornography". Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Digital). 6 June 2008. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 

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