Australian Classification Board

Australian Classification Board
Australian Classification Board
Agency overview
Formed 1970
Jurisdiction Commonwealth of Australia
Minister responsible Robert McClelland, Attorney-General
Parent agency Attorney-General's Department (current parent agency), OFLC (Original parent agency), Australian Classification Review Board (sister agency)

The Australian Classification Board is a 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 1970. The Australian Classification Board was originally incorporated in the Office of Film and Literature Classification 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 been 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 ACB introduced the MA15+ rating to fill in the gap between the M rating and the R18+ rating, due to complaints about films such as The Silence of the Lambs being too strong for the M rating (not recommended for younger audiences though any age is still allowed in) though not too high in impact to be rated R18+ (no one under 18 years of age).

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

On 22 July 2011, a meeting of attorneys-generals 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 Brenden O'connor would not need to use the federal government to intervene.[3]

On 30 October 2011, the Classification Board applications manager David Emery stated that the R18+ Classification is "still at least two years away." [4]


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.[5] McDonald was also pressured to step down after the ban of Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom lifted.

Classification of film

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

Classification of video games

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 does not currently exist for video games.[6] Michael Atkinson, who was the South Australian Attorney-General until 2010, was a continuous opponent against introduction of the R18+ classification, and actively blocked the release of a discussion paper until just before his retirement, that canvassed the opinion of the Australian public on whether or not an R18+ classification should be introduced. In July 2011, the R18+ rating has been announced and is scheduled to be introduced before the end of the year.[7][2]

Despite the various controversies that have arisen with the classification of videogames within Australia, there are many examples of games getting much more lenient ratings compared to other countries. Such games would include Halo 3 which got an M (15 from BBFC, M17+ from ESRB, New Zealand's OFLC a R16), The Witcher which got an MA15+ (18 from PEGI, BBFC, and USK), Dead Rising and its sequel getting a MA15+ (18 from BBFC, PEGI and CERO), Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 getting a PG (17+ from ESRB and CERO), Zone of the Enders (and its sequel) getting a G8+/PG (R16 from New Zealand's OFLC, M17+ from ESRB, 15 from BBFC), Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened getting a PG (M17+ from ESRB, 16+ from PEGI), Neo Contra getting a G8+/PG (M17+ from ESRB, 15 from CERO) and Ar tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel with a PG rating (M17+ from ESRB, 15 from CERO).

Film and video game classifications


The classifications below are advisory in nature—they do not impose any legal restrictions on access or distribution of material.[8]:

OFLC small E.svg Exempt for classification.png

  • E (Exempt from Classification) - Only very specific types of material (including educational material and straight records of artistic performances) can be exempted from classification, and the material cannot contain anything that might lead to an M rating or higher. [1] The assessment of exemption may be made by the distributor or exhibitor (self-assessed) without needing to submit the product for certifying 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”. This means that the selected material cannot be rated.

OFLC small G.svg OFLC large G.svg

  • G (General) – Contains material intended for general viewing. However, G does not necessarily designate a children’s film or game as many of these productions contain content that would be of no interest to most children.
  • The content is very mild in impact.

OFLC small PG.svg OFLC large PG.svg

  • PG (Parental guidance recommended) – Contains material that young children may find confusing or upsetting, and may require parental supervision.
  • The content is mild in impact.

OFLC small M.svg OFLC large M.svg

  • M (Recommended for mature audiences) – Contains material that may require a mature perspective but is not deemed too strong for younger viewers.
  • The content is moderate in impact.


By contrast, the classifications below are legally restricted—i.e., it is illegal to sell or exhibit materials so classified to a person younger than the respective age limit.[8]

OFLC small MA15+.svg OFLC large MA15+.svg

  • MA15+ (Mature Accompanied for those under 15) - Contains material that is considered unsuitable for exhibition by persons under the age of 15. Persons under said age may only legally purchase, rent, exhibit or view MA15+ rated content under the supervision of an adult guardian. The exhibition of these films to people under the age of 15 years who are not supervised by a parent or legal guardian is a criminal offence.
  • The content is strong in impact

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

  • R18+ (Restricted to 18 and over) - Contains material that is considered unsuitable for exhibition by persons under the age of 18. People under said age may not buy, rent, exhibit or view these films. The exhibition of these films to people under the age of 18 years is a criminal offence.
  • The content is high in impact.

OFLC small X18+.svg OFLC large X18+.svg

  • X18+ (Restricted to 18 and over) - Contains material that is pornographic in nature. People under 18 may not buy, rent, exhibit or view these films. The exhibition of these films to people under the age of 18 years is a criminal offence.
  • The film contains sexually explicit content.
  • This rating applies to graphic/unsimulated sexual content only. Films classified as X18+ (Restricted) are banned from being sold or rented in all Australian states and are only legally available in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Importing X18+ material from these territories to any of the Australian states is legal, though.

  • RC (Refused Classification)(Banned) - Contains material that 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 which are very high in impact and/or contain any type of violence in conjunction with real sexual intercourse are Refused Classification by the ACB. Films which may be Refused Classification include content that:
    • Depict, express or otherwise deals with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty and violence in a revolting or abhorrent nature
    • Depict in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult a minor who is, or who appears to be, under 18 (whether or not engaged in sexual activity).
    • Promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence.

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. It is, however, legal to possess RC films (except in Western Australia and parts of the Northern Territory), unless they contain illegal content (e.g. child pornography).

Previous video game ratings

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

OFLC Rating: G 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 some children find confusing or upsetting, and may require the guidance of parents or guardians. It is not recommended for viewing by people under 8 without guidance from parents or guardians. 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 still no legal restrictions thus any age is allowed to access these titles. 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 or hire unless accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.


The current permanent members of the Classification Board[9]:

  • Donald McDonald (Director)
  • Jeremy Fenton (Senior Classifier)
  • Georgina Dridan
  • Greg Scott
  • Amanda Apel
  • Zahid Gamieldien
  • Moya Glasson
  • Sheridan Traise

Literature ratings

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 – Pornographic in nature; restricted as above.

Literature only needs to be classified if it contains anything that might lead to a Category 1 classification or higher. Any classified literature that does NOT fall into any of the above categories is rated Refused Classification (Banned). It is uncommon for these ratings to appear on books.


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".[10]

See also

International rating systems


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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