National Classification Scheme
The National Classification Scheme is a cooperative arrangement between the Australian Government (the Commonwealth) and state and territory governments. It was created by the Intergovernmental Agreement on Censorship.
Ministers from the Commonwealth, states and territories oversee the Scheme. The National Classification Code and guidelines for the classification of films, computer games and publications must be agreed to by all ministers. These provide the principles and criteria for making classification decisions.
The role of the Commonwealth
The Commonwealth classification Minister is the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts.
The role of the states and territories
State and territory governments make laws about how films, computer games, and publications can be distributed, shown and advertised. The laws can differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
State and territory police enforce these laws.
State and territory classification Ministers are usually Attorneys-General or Ministers for Justice.
The national scheme is implemented through the Commonwealth Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995.
The Act is supplemented by a number of regulations, determinations and legislative instruments which include:
- National Classification Code
- Classification guidelines for Films 2012
- Classification guidelines for Computer Games 2012
- Classification guidelines for Publications 2005
- Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) (Markings and Consumer Advice) Determination 2014
- Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Regulations 2005
- Classification (Advertising of Unclassified Films and Computer Games) Determination 2009
- Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) (Modifications of Films) Instrument 2015
- Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) (Modifications of Computer Games) Instrument 2015
- Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) (Conditional Cultural Exemption Rules) Instrument 2015
- Classification (Authorised Television Series Assessor Scheme) Determination 2008
Online content is regulated in Australia by the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.
State and territory legislation
Each state and territory has classification enforcement legislation to complement the Commonwealth Classification Act. The legislation sets out how films, publications and computer games can be sold, hired, exhibited and advertised in each state or territory. Some states and territories have reserved classification powers.
Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
The Classification (Publications, Film and Computer Games) Act 1995 provides ministerial authority to approve classification tools for classifying films, computer games or publications in Australia, taking into account the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) (Approval of Classification Tools) Guidelines 2014.
A classification tool may take the form of a questionnaire, a computer program or other mechanism which allows a person to provide information about the content of a film, computer game or publication and the tool generates (for example via an algorithm) a classification decision.
Classification decisions produced by approved tools are deemed to be decisions of the Australian Classification Board and are published on the Australian National Classification Database at www.classification.gov.au.
The Classification (Approved Classification Tools) (Application for Revocation of Classification) Determination 2015 sets out rules for applying to the Classification Board to revoke a classification rating made by an approved classification tool. Two classification tools are currently approved for use in Australia:
- The Global Rating Tool for the classification of mobile and online games on participating storefronts; and
- The Netflix Classification Tool for the classification of original films and series on the Australian Netflix service.
Global Rating Tool
The International Age Ratings Authority (IARC) is a partnership of leading computer game ratings authorities from around the world including the United States, Canada, Europe, Brazil, South Korea and Australia.
The Global Rating Tool was developed by IARC in partnership with these ratings authorities and was approved for use in Australia in 2015. The Global Ratings Tool classifies mobile and online computer games on participating storefronts including Google Play, the Microsoft Store, the Nintendo e-Shop, Oculus Store and Sony PlayStation Store.
Netflix Classification Tool
The Netflix Classification Tool was developed by Netflix to generate classification decisions for content streamed on its Australian service and was approved for use in Australia.
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