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Classification laws

Australia has a national classification scheme under which films, computer games and certain publications, that are to be displayed, demonstrated, sold, hired, advertised or publicly exhibited, are generally required to be classified.

All Australian states and territories partner with the Commonwealth in the scheme.

Films, computer games and publications each have their own classification categories under the National Classification Code. Classification decisions are made by the Classification Board by assessing content and applying the provisions of the Code.

The Classification Board is a Commonwealth statutory body that also makes decisions on the rating of each film, game or publication.

States and territories make their own enforcement laws based on the national classification scheme. These laws also include offences and penalties for any breaches of the laws.

In Queensland, the Office of Fair Trading monitors and enforces the classification laws.

Classification of films and computer games

The classification given to a film or a computer game depends on the presence of violence, sex, language, themes, drug use and nudity.

Films have seven classification categories: G, PG, M, MA15+, R18+, X18+ and RC (Refused Classification).

Computer games have six classification categories: G, PG, M, MA15+, R18+ and RC.

It’s illegal to exhibit, attempt to exhibit or sell copies of a film that has been refused classification, or to advertise and sell a computer game that has been refused classification.

Conditional cultural exemptions

Generally, films and computer games must be classified before they are advertised, sold, screened or demonstrated in or to the public.

There are some exceptions for:

  • cultural events (such as film festivals and computer game expos)
  • cultural institutions (such as art galleries and museums).

These exemptions are called ‘conditional cultural exemptions’. These conditional cultural exemptions may apply depending on:

  • the type of event that is being held
  • the age of the people who are attending.

Event organisers and institutions wanting to rely on a conditional cultural exemption ordinarily need to make an application to the Classification Board to decide whether they are entitled to conditional cultural exemptions. Conditional cultural exemptions are determined according to Commonwealth classifications law (see Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (Cwlth)).

Some types of films and computer games may be exempt from the requirement to be classified. The types of films and computer games that may be exempt include business, accounting, professional, scientific, educational, current affairs, religious, social sciences and natural history films and computer games. The Department of Communications and the Arts publishes a tool on its website which helps industry decide whether a film or computer game is exempt from classification.

The Department of Justice and Attorney-General no longer grants exemptions from classification for films or computer games.

Screening of unclassified computer games

It is normally an offence to screen unclassified films or demonstrate unclassified computer games in or to the public.

To find out more information about exemptions and complying with classification laws, you should contact the Commonwealth Department of Communications and the Arts.

Screening unclassified films or demonstrating unclassified computer games

It is normally an offence to screen unclassified films or demonstrate unclassified computer games in or to the public.

To find out more information about exemptions and complying with classification laws, you should contact the Commonwealth Department of Communications and the Arts.

Classification of publications

Most printed publications, including magazines, don’t need classification, and may be legally bought and read by anyone, including children.

Only ‘submittable publications’ (i.e. publications that may be refused classification or restricted to adults) need classification. These are usually adult magazines that contain sexualised nudity or sexually explicit content.

Submittable publications fall into 1 of 4 categories:

  • Unrestricted—some of which are not recommended for people under 15 years
  • Category 1 restricted—legally restricted to people 18 years and over, and contain stronger and more detailed images than Unrestricted
  • Category 2 restricted—legally restricted to people 18 years and over, can only be sold in certain places and contain stronger images than category 1 restricted
  • Refused classification (RC)—can’t be legally sold.

Category 1 and category 2 restricted publications are prohibited in Queensland. The Classification Board decides if publications are submittable publications. It also makes classification decisions for submittable publications by applying the provisions of the National Classification Code.

Making a complaint

If you have any comments or complaints about a classification, you can contact the Classification Board.

If you think there’s been a breach of a classification law in Queensland, you can contact the Office of Fair Trading, which investigates these breaches.

Television, radio, internet and music classification

Broadcasters, such as television, radio, internet and music, all adhere to codes of practice drafted by industry groups and fall under national jurisdiction. For more information, contact the following associations:

Note: There is no formal classification system for performing or visual arts unless they include multimedia content or are included in a publication.

Last updated
23 February 2018
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