The Australian Federal Governemnt says it has achieved a key milestone in the process to reform the National Classification Scheme with the passing of the Classification Amendment Bill by Parliament.
The Bill represents the first stage in a two-stage process, announced by the Government earlier this year, to reform the Scheme and make it fit-for-purpose in today’s media environment. According to the Government, the reforms will ensure that all Australians, particularly Australian families, continue to benefit from trusted and reliable classification information to guide their media choices.
“As consumption of media changes in Australia, we need to ensure our classification scheme keeps evolving to meet new needs – enabling Australians to make informed choices about what they, and those in their care, watch, read and play,” said Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP. “Further to the important reforms achieved in this Bill, the Albanese Government will continue to work with industry, and state and territory governments on further improvements to ensure the Classification system remains a trusted source of information for the Australian community.”
Prioritising immediate improvements to the existing Scheme, the Bill expands options for industry to self-classify content including film and computer games using either in-house or third-party classifiers who have been trained and accredited by Government.
The Bill also extends the Classification Board’s powers to quality assure self-classification decisions, expands classification exemptions to include low-risk cultural content made available by libraries and museums, and introduces a ‘classify once’ principle so content classified for broadcast can be shown in other formats using the same classification.
The changes, which will come into effect from early 2024, are designed to improve the capacity of the National Classification Scheme to classify growing volumes of content, promote industry compliance and reduce classification timeframes and costs. They will also increase access to cultural content in public libraries and approved cultural institutions.
In addition to these reforms, the Government says it is continuing to work with state and territory governments to introduce mandatory minimum classifications for computer games containing gambling-like content, such as paid loot boxes and simulated gambling.
It is intended that the second stage of classification reforms will clarify the Scheme’s purpose and scope, establish fit-for-purpose regulatory and governance arrangements, and improve the responsiveness of the Scheme to evolving community standards and expectations.
A public consultation process on these reforms is expected to commence later this year.
The passing of the legislation follows four new appointments to the Classification Board after a merit-based selection process.
The four appointees include:
Ms Hellen Perko is a Fine Art and Heritage Specialist and Valuer, with broad career experience in the Arts sector including leadership positions at auction houses and art galleries, as well as degrees in Fine Arts and Arts Administration. She is a fluent Serbo‑Croatian speaker and brings a culturally diverse awareness and connection to non‑English speaking communities. Ms Perko has been appointed as a full-time member.
Mr Raphael Richards has a background in primary school teaching and holds a Graduate Diploma of Education (Primary) from RMIT, a Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary) from Melbourne University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies from LaTrobe University. Mr Richards has been appointed as a part-time member.
Mr Dominique Irlinger is the former CEO and Operations Manager of IMAX Sydney and former National Programming Manager of Dendy Cinemas. He has worked in the cinema industry as a General Manager and is a volunteer film programmer of foreign films. He has a Masters of International Relations, Bachelor of Arts in History and Literature, and has taught French internationally. Mr Irlinger has been appointed as a part-time member.
Mr Trent Bartfeld is an Educator and Freelance Writer/Content maker for corporate, public, community, educational, and film industry producers and entities. He has tertiary‑level Arts and Education qualifications, and has taught in primary and secondary school. He has lectured across tertiary and open programs in technical and creative filmmaking and screenwriting. Mr Bartfeld has been appointed as a part-time member.
The Government acknowledges the service of outgoing members Ms Ellenor Nixon, Mr Thomas Mann and Mr Iain Humphrey for their valuable contributions to the Board.