Vehicle registration plates of Australia

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Australian vehicle registration plates or number plates are issued by state, territory, and Commonwealth governments, and the armed forces of Australia. The plates are associated with a vehicle and are generally intended to last for the time the vehicle remains registered in the state, though as they become unreadable (or for other reasons) they may be recalled or replaced with newer ones.

History[edit]

From the 1970s until the late 1990s, most Australian plates were of the form xxx·xxx (with x being either letters or numbers)—for example, aaa·nnn in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory; naa.nnn in Western Australia, where the starting number was between six and nine; and nnn.aaa in Queensland. More recently as these series have become exhausted the states and territories have adopted different numbering schemes. The most recent adoption of a new sequence plate is in Victoria, which from 2013 issues plates in the format naa.naa. Nevertheless, standard issue plates continue to have the same dimensions regardless of their state-of-issue.

Current standard issue plates[edit]

Standard issue[edit]

State/territory Text/background colour Format Current slogan Current series Notes
Australian Capital Territory blue/white Yaa·nna Various slogans
YMZ·00A "Canberra" Followed by either "The Nations Capital" or "The Bush Capital"
New South Wales black/yellow Ca·nn·aa New South Wales CR·00·MO No slogan
Northern Territory ochre/white Ca·nn·aa NT – Outback Australia CD·30·AA Slogan embossed on plate
Queensland maroon/white nnn·aaa Queensland – Sunshine State 000·YKQ Slogan embossed on plate
South Australia black/white Snnn·aaa South Australia S000·BXK Previously SA - The Festival State
Tasmania blue/white H nn aa Tasmania – Explore the possibilities H 00 UP Background screenprinting of state logo (a thylacine walking through reeds)
Victoria blue/white 1aa·naa Victoria – The Education State 1NY·1AA Slogan screenprinted on plate (includes slimline)
Western Australia blue/white 1aaa·nnn Western Australia 1GQD·000 Decorative motif of desert sun and blue skyline along top of plate.

Other issue[edit]

State/territory Text/background colour Format Current slogan Current series Notes
Australian Capital Territory blue/white aaa·nna ACT YNA·26L "Premium" slimline; no slogan -
New South Wales black/white aaa·nna NSW DYK·00A "Premium" slimline; no slogan
South Australia black/white SB·nn·aa SA Heavy Vehicle SB·00·PE Slogan screen printed black/white
aa·nnna SA DD·000N "Premium" slimline; no slogan
Victoria white/black Aaa·nnn VIC AWN·000 No Slogan white/black
white/green BSnn·aa Vic – Accredited Bus Service BS04·AE Slogan screen printed on bus plate

Trailers[edit]

State/territory Text/background colour Format Current slogan Current series Notes
Australian Capital Territory blue/white T nnnn a ACT T 5000 G No slogan
New South Wales black/yellow Ta·nn·aa NSW - TRAILER TE·00·ZU Commenced December 2014
black/white TR·nn·aa NSW TR·00·PP No slogan. New series commenced August 2014
Northern Territory ochre/white Ta·nnnn NT – Outback Australia TM·0000 Slogan embossed on plate
Queensland maroon/white nnn·Uaa Queensland – Sunshine State 000·UHP Slogan embossed on plate
maroon/white Ea·nnnn QLD EV·0000 No slogan
South Australia black/white Snnn·Taa South Australia S000·TGP No slogan
Tasmania blue/white Y nn aa Tasmania – Explore the possibilities Y 00 HP Background screen printed of state logo (a thylacine walking through reeds)
Victoria blue/white Ynn·nnn Victoria – The Education State Z01·000 Both the state logo decal in top centre, New Sequence will be announced.
Western Australia blue/white 1Taa·nnn Western Australia 1TTN·000 Decorative motif of desert sun and blue skyline along top of plate. Only the serials are embossed.

Motorcycles[edit]

State/territory Text/background colour Format Current slogan Current series Notes
Australian Capital Territory blue/white A·nnnn ACT A·0800 No slogan.
New South Wales black/yellow Laa·nn NSW LDJ·00 No slogan
black/white Daa·nn NSW DJU·00 No slogan
Northern Territory ochre/white B·nnnn NT B·6000 No slogan
Queensland maroon/white nnn·Ra Qld 000·RR No slogan.
South Australia black/white Snn·Baa SA S00·BHA No slogan
Tasmania blue/white B nnn a Tas B 000 E No slogan
Victoria blue/white 2a·naa Vic 2E·1AA No slogan
Western Australia blue/white 1Ia·nnn WA 1IV·000 No slogan

Boats[edit]

State/territory Text/background colour Format Current slogan Current series Notes
Australian Capital Territory Black text aannnA ACT UA000A No slogan
New South Wales Black text aaannnN NSW AMA000N No slogan
Northern Territory Black text aannn NT IA000 No slogan
Queensland Black text aannnQ Qld YC000Q No slogan
South Australia Black text aannnS SA IA000S No slogan
Tasmania Black text nnnnn Tas 40000 No slogan
Victoria Black text aannn Vic ZA000 No slogan
Western Australia Black text aannn WA HA000 No slogan

Federal numbering scheme[edit]

Standards and federal allocations for all vehicles[edit]

Since 1936, Australian plates were to be uniform in size and embossing in standard Australian dies, beginning with New South Wales, FCT (now ACT) and Victoria. By 1956 the remaining states and territories moved into standard Australian embossing from either stamped or enamel, standardising in dimensions of 372 mm (14.6 in) × 134 mm (5.3 in).

From 1951–52, Australian automobiles were to adopt a broad scheme across all states and territories for vehicle number plates. Both NSW and Victoria had previously issued plates with 2-letters, 3-digits, white on a black background. However, while implemented, this was not entirely popular as some states and territories preferred their own identity reflected on their vehicles instead. They were meant to use the following proposed scheme:

  • New South Wales: AAA-000 to FZZ-999 – Exited scheme July 2004 (AAA-000 to ZLF-999 issued, ZLG-000 to ZZY-999 not issued, I not used as first letters).
  • Victoria: GAA-000 to MZZ-999 (Iaa-nnn series skipped initially, but used after the Laa-nnn series) – Exited scheme August 2013 (AAA-000 to ZZZ-999 issued, M reserved for government and V reserved for special use).
  • Queensland: NAA-000 to QZZ-999 (Oaa-nnn series initially skipped by Queensland) – Exited scheme July 1977 (NAA-000 to QZZ-999 issued, Q not used as passenger plates).
  • South Australia: RAA-000 to TZZ-999 – Exited scheme October 2008 (RAA-000 to XUN-299 issued, XUN-300 onwards not issued, T not used as first letters it used trailers and motorcycles).
  • Western Australia: UAA-000 to VZZ-999 (V was not used; issued X after U ran out) – Exited scheme January 1979.
  • Tasmania: WAA-000 to WZZ-999 (later 2 letters and 4 digits) – Exited scheme 1970 (only in W-prefix).
  • Northern Territory: XAA-000 to XZZ-999 (not taken up; stayed with 6 numeric digits, 800-000 series reserved for government) – Exited scheme June 2011.
  • Australian Capital Territory: YAA-000 to YZZ-999 – Exited scheme July 1998 (only in Y-prefix).
  • Commonwealth Government ZAA-000 to ZZZ-999 (with the first Z in red), issued Australia-wide.

Western Australia deemed itself too large to fit into the proposed scheme and adhered to one of its own devising; plates in the Iaa-nnn series were to be skipped (as a capital I was believed to be easily mistaken for a number 1). This allowed the two populous states with greater registrations of vehicles 6 letter-series each (New South Wales had A to F, Victoria had G to H, and J to M), and others with 3 letter-series (Queensland N, and P to Q, South Australia R to T, Western Australia was allocated U to V). Tasmania was only given one, W, due to its size, and the Australian Capital Territory Y. Z was for federal government department use Australia-wide, the 2nd letter reflecting the commonwealth department. Letters I and O were deemed to be too similar to 1 and 0 and weren't part of the scheme.

NSW adopted yellow background and black lettering, ACT white background and blue lettering, Victoria adopted a black background with white lettering for its initial scheme allocation. Once this was exhausted, Victoria began using from AAA-000 to FZZ-999 on white background with green lettering (later blue commencing at NAA-000). Queensland used a black background with white lettering, Tasmania a white background with blue lettering, SA white background and black lettering, and WA white background (later changed to yellow) and black lettering. NT kept to their white background and all-numbers in ochre that all numerics ended in June 2011 and began using CA-00-AB onwards.

However, this system was not as popular as expected: the Northern Territory refused and continued its previous all-number system. Western Australia soon adopted the scheme, taking charge of the previously NT allocated XAA-000 to XZZ-999 (WAG-000 to WAG-999 they reserved for WA Government vehicles, then extending to XZZ-999). However many WA rural shires chose to issue their own series plates, with initial letters being Shire abbreviations followed by digits, in the WA colour scheme.

Queensland, after initially skipping the O-series (as a capital-O was often confused for a number 0), were left with too few combinations for a growing number of registrations. The Q series plates were reserved for Queensland government use. In 1978, having exhausted Naa-nnn to Paa-nnn combinations Queensland reversed the format, starting at 000-NAA continuing through to 999-PZZ in 1987, when plates commencing at 000-AAA were issued. Colours were white reflective background and green lettering (later maroon). There are still a number of vehicles in Queensland with the old white-on-black Q and six black on white digits at this time. Only one of these was issued, for display at the rear.

All the remaining states and territories stuck to their initial allocations, until the number of registrations became too large for each state and "overflowed" into series otherwise allocated to another state. NSW overflowed from FZZ-999 to GAA-000 (otherwise issued to Victoria) in 1972, Victoria (having reserved the Maa-nnn series for state government registrations) overflowed from LZZ-999 to IAA-000 (previously skipped) in 1974, and then from IZZ-999 to AAA-000 (otherwise issued to NSW) in 1977. South Australia did similar, overflowing from SZZ-999 to UAA-000 etc. (having reserved the Taa-nnn series for trailer registrations).

Federal Interstate Registration Scheme[edit]

Run years: 1 January 1987 to 1 July 2018

Heavy vehicles (over 4.5 tonnes GVM) can choose to participate in FIRS.

FIRS plates are WX·00AA, and are green on a reflective yellow background.

FIRS plates are issued by state authorities on behalf of the Commonwealth, and carry the format as specified by the Interstate Road Transport Regulations 1986 – Reg 21.[1] Federal Interstate-registered vehicles are prohibited from undertaking intrastate journeys and can only be used for cross-border work.

The first character represents the state of issue:

  • A for Australian Capital Territory
  • C for Northern Territory
  • N for New South Wales
  • Q for Queensland
  • S for South Australia
  • T for Tasmania
  • V for Victoria
  • W for Western Australia

The second character represents the type of vehicle being registered:

  • V for vehicle (typically issued to prime-movers, but are also attached to rigid vehicles such as coaches and moving trucks).
  • T for trailer.
  • X for extra weight, for vehicles with particular high gross vehicle or aggregate trailer masses.

The remaining characters are allocated by the issuing authorities. As most interstate transport companies are based on the East Coast, the majority of FIRS plates are registered in NSW and VIC. Some issues originate in QLD or SA, with the remaining states appearing relatively rarely.

A typical plate which might be found on a semi-trailer, registered to a company in QLD would be QT·88MW.

The Commonwealth Government will decide the future of this scheme once the new National Heavy Vehicle Registration Scheme below begins from 1 July 2018.

A subsequent update has been posted on Roads and Maritime website [2] stating that ALL FIRS scheme plates will cease on 1 July 2018. The process will be that FIRS scheme for renewals and new applicants will close on 1 July 2018. The scheme will then close completely on 1 July 2019, once FIRS registration have all expired and transitioned to the new National Heavy Vehicle scheme/state based registration plates.

More details are found under the Infrastructure [3] website of the Federal Government's

National Heavy Vehicle Registration Scheme[edit]

Starting 1 July 2018, a new system is being implemented in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. Victoria will go on live on 1 October 2018.

Western Australia and Northern Territory will not be participating, hence owners will transition from the old FIRS scheme to the state based plates.

The format as proposed will be:

FB-12AA in Black on white reflection base, and blue band legend with the words NATIONAL HEAVY VEHICLE imprinted on it.

XQ-12AA is for Trucks while YQ-12AA is for Trailers. In this example the prefix denotes X for Trucks and Y for Trailers and the last prefix letter is for home states/territory: XQ - Queensland, XN- New South Wales etc.

It will replace the state based general series, however not mandatory and owners can request state based personalised plates if they wish to have them. It applies to new heavy vehicles or heavy vehicle requiring replacement of state based general series plates. 4.5 GVM minimum must qualify for the new plates.

Common features[edit]

Plates tend to bear the State or Territory name and perhaps a state motto or slogan at the top and/or bottom of the plate. Recent issues of plates (since the 1980s) also often use the state's colours and may include some imagery related to the state (such as the state's logo as the sequence separator).

Vehicles running on autogas or compressed natural gas must have a metal diamond with a white lettering LPG on a retro-reflective red background or metal disc with white lettering CNG on red background. The tag must be mechanically fixed (and is usually riveted) onto both of the registration plates. If multiple gas tanks are fitted to vehicle, multiple tags are required – one tag for each tank installed. Subsequently, vehicle manufacturers who manufacture cars with LPG as standard fitting, provide LPG stickers already stuck to the vehicle's registration plate areas, and some state and territory registration authorities also are producing plastic "flat" printed registration plates, and therefore need to provide LPG stickers to avoid damage to the plates if drilled for pop rivets.

All hybrid electric vehicles must have a green diamond sticker with the word "Hybrid" written in white letters. This became a mandatory requirement on all hybrid vehicles registered in Victoria from 1 April 2009,[4] and is designed to warn emergency services in the case of an accident that the vehicle contains high voltage cabling throughout the vehicle.

Commonwealth and military[edit]

Army
Defence Force

Military plates were nnn-nnn with the first digit corresponding to the military district number:

  • 1 – Queensland
  • 2 – New South Wales
  • 3 – Victoria
  • 4 – South Australia
  • 5 – Western Australia
  • 6 – Tasmania

However, new plates issued to the Army are now in this format: nn-nnnn, where the first two digits represent the year the vehicle was registered. r.g. 05-1832.

Current Australian Army registration plate format is Annnnn with this newer format beginning in 2003. The A represents "Army" with the next two digits representing the year the vehicle was first registered. For instance, a 2008 model Toyota Coaster used to transport army cadets might have the plate A08227. This format has also been adopted by the Defence Force, Navy, and Air Force with combinations Dnnnnn, Nnnnnn and Rnnnnn respectively.

The official car of Chief of the Defence Force carries plates ADF1 and official cars for the three service chiefs carry plates ARMY1, NAVY1 or RAAF1.

Chief of Army plate
Commonwealth of Australia

The Commonwealth Government of Australia used the Z prefix for its government owned vehicles up until 2000 when the Commonwealth Vehicle Registry was closed.

These plates were on a black on white background, usually marked with "C of A" at the top of the plate – an abbreviation of Commonwealth of Australia and the leading Z being red to further distinguish it from other state plates.

Issuance of Z prefixed plates used for same purposes was passed onto the states after 2000. Australian Capital Territory plates started at ZYA-000, Victoria plates started at ZED-000, Queensland plates started at ZQ-0000, New South Wales plates started at ZZZ-000, South Australia plates started at ZSA-000, Western Australia plates started at ZAA-00F and Tasmania plates started at ZTA-000. Only New South Wales and Victoria chose to use their state base colours rather than the standard black on reflective white, with the use of red embossed Z prefix.

St Edward's Crown plate (Governor General)
Prime Ministerial C*1 plate

Each of the states display their state initials as seen above the numbers instead of the old "C of A" legend.

The Northern Territory still uses the older format and same "C of A" legend at top of the plate.

The registration plate of the Prime Ministerial Limousine was C*1 (i.e. Commonwealth No. 1) with a seven-pointed Commonwealth Star. This has been updated in November 2015 showing C (Australian Government crest image) 1.[5] Other Commonwealth fleet cars for official transport carry "C of A" plates in the form C-nnn.

The Governor-General's official cars do not carry registration plates, but simply depict a representation of the St Edward's Crown. They tend to also have a flag mounted on the official car. Similar plates are used for vehicles carrying Queen Elizabeth II when visiting Australia.

For official visits to Australia, special plates are often put over the top of normal 'Z' plates, depicting the Australian Coat of Arms and, in red 'Visit to Australia' with a numeral. These are not strictly registration plates, but are useful for police and other officials to identify cars in official motorcades.

Diplomatic[edit]

Diplomatic plate

Diplomatic plates are issued to foreign diplomats by the Government of the Australian Capital Territory. They grant diplomatic immunity to the vehicle and driver from all traffic laws, speed limits, parking infringements and tolls in all reasonable course of duty by a diplomatic officer, in compliance with international treaty. They follow the format of 'DC nnnn', 'DCnnnnn', 'DX nnnn' or 'DXnnnnn', where the first two or three numbers are the code for the home country of the diplomat, and have black text on a powder blue background. DC plates are issued to members of the diplomatic corps, whereas DX plates are issued to persons who are attached to diplomatic missions but are not themselves diplomats, e.g. household staff.

Older issues have no territory identifier, however newer plates have 'ACT' embossed at the top centre of the plate. Newer plates are also written as 'DC' and 'DX', rather than 'D.C.' and 'D.X.' to allow for the inclusion of a greater number of characters in the sequence. A substantial number of older-style plates are still in use, however.

The first two or three numbers appearing in the plate correspond to a specific country, for example 69 is issued to the United Kingdom. The following two digits are typically issued with lower numbers to higher-ranking officials, usually 01 being issued to the ambassador from that country. So DC 6901 would be found on the vehicle of the British High Commissioner to Australia.

The number issued to each country has no particular relevance, and was allocated by ballot. Countries with many vehicles (such as the USA) are allocated two numbers. Before the blue D.C. plates were introduced, diplomatic cars in Canberra carried plates which had white letters on red.

The numbers then correlated to the length of time the particular diplomatic mission had been in Canberra and the British High Commissioner's car proudly carried the plate D.C.1 The replacement arrangement is more egalitarian.

State registration authorities issue CC plates to consular representatives in their relevant state capital.

The ACT Government issues similar plates to representatives of international organisations in the Territory. These plates are also coloured black on powder blue, and follow a format of IO nnnn.

Registration labels abolition[edit]

All states have abolished registration labels for light vehicles:

  • Western Australia – 1 January 2010
  • South Australia – 1 July 2011
  • Tasmania – 1 September 2012
  • New South Wales – 1 January 2013
  • Australian Capital Territory – 1 July 2013
  • Northern Territory – 1 July 2013
  • Victoria – 1 January 2014
  • Queensland – 1 October 2014

Registration labels for heavy vehicles GVM 14.5 or more have or are soon to be abolished:[6]

  • Western Australia – 1 July 2016
  • South Australia – 1 November 2017
  • Tasmania – 1 September 2017
  • New South Wales – 1 July 2018
  • Australian Capital Territory – 1 July 2018
  • Northern Territory – Labels still required
  • Victoria – 1 July 2018
  • Queensland – 1 July 2018

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  • Blue Mountains Family History Society (2007) Australian number plates Springwood, NSW: Blue Mountains Family History Society. ISBN 978-0-9756788-4-8
  • Nance, Tony (1980) Australian number plates Beaumaris, Vic. ISBN 0-9594474-0-7
  • Wright, D.C. (1983) Australasian (motor vehicle) registration plates, 1901–1982 Montmorency, Vic. ISBN 0-9594980-0-1

External links[edit]

Custom Plates Issuing Authorities