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Legislation

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

Commonwealth law establishes the Classification Board and Classification Review Board and sets out their responsibilities and procedures for decision making.

The Commonwealth classification minister is the Minister for Communications.

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.

Commonwealth legislation

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:

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

Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) (Enforcement) Act 1995

New South Wales

Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Act 1995

Victoria

Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) (Enforcement) Act 1995

Queensland

Classification of Computer Games and Images Act 1995

Classification of Films Act 1991

Classification of Publications Act 1991

South Australia

Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995

Western Australia

Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Act 1996

Tasmania

Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Act 1995

Northern Territory

Classification of Publications, Films and Computer Games Act

Classification of Publications, Films and Computer Games Regulations

Classification tools

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. When considering approval, the Minister takes 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 or artificial intelligence to provide information about the content of a film, computer game or publication. Using algorithms and logic rules, the tool generates 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.

Three classification tools are approved for use in Australia:

  • The IARC Global Rating Tool for the classification of mobile and online games on participating storefronts
  • The Netflix Classification Tool for the classification of original films and series on the Australian Netflix service
  • The Spherex Classification Tool for the classification of original films and series on their clients’ Australian services.

IARC Global Rating Tool

The International Age Rating Coalition (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.

IARC developed its Global Rating Tool in partnership with these ratings authorities to classify mobile and online computer games available on participating storefronts. It was approved for use in Australia in 2015.

You can learn more about IARC and its Global Rating Tool on the IARC website.

Netflix Classification Tool

Netflix developed the Netflix Classification Tool to generate classification decisions for content streamed on its Australian service. It was approved for use in Australia in 2016.

You can learn more about Netflix on the Netflix website.

Spherex Classification Tool

Spherex Inc. is a United States based media company that handles the global rating and distribution of content on behalf of their industry clients. The Spherex Classification Tool builds on the self-classification system Spherex Inc. uses to rate content for over 100 countries.

The Spherex Classification Tool generates classification decisions for content streamed on its clients’ Australian services. It was approved for use in Australia in 2022.

You can learn more about Spherex Inc. on the Spherex website.

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