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Australian Government Coat of Arms

Style Manual

Security classifications and protective markings

Use protective markings for government information. Follow your organisation’s procedures to add them.

Add protective markings to government information

If you are working with government information, follow organisational procedures to assess and apply protective markings to sensitive and classified information.

The protective marking will usually be in all capitals at the top and bottom of a page.

Information is assessed and given protective marking to identify if it is sensitive or security classified.

  • Information might be identified as ‘Unofficial’, ‘Official’ or ‘Official: Sensitive’.
  • Information might be security classified as ‘Protected’, ‘Secret’ or ‘Top Secret’.
  • Other protective markings include caveats (such as codewords and special handling instructions) and information management markers. Caveat markings are mandatory and information management markers are optional.

All sensitive and security classified information, including emails, carry protective markings. Information metadata is also marked.

PSPF requirements include how the information is classified and marked, and what this means for its storage, handling, access and disposal. For more information, consult the PSPF webpages. Or consult your organisation’s protective security policy.

Security classification requirements

The Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF) explains how protective markings should be formatted. To achieve clearly identifiable protective markings, the PSPF recommends:

  • using capitals, bold text, large font and a distinctive colour (red preferred)
  • placing markings at the centre top and bottom of each page
  • separating markings by a double forward slash to help clearly differentiate each marking.

When you write for the Australian Government, be aware of PSPF requirements for government information. Follow organisational procedures to apply security classifications and protective markings to content before referring to the PSPF.

Use initial capitals to write about protective markings

In general text, use an initial capital unless you are reporting how the protective marking actually appears on the page. In that instance, write the marking as it appears and use quotation marks.

Example

Only those with an existing Negative Vetting 1 security clearance are considered for supervised temporary access to Top Secret information.

The field report was stamped ‘TOP SECRET’.

Release notes

The digital edition provides detailed about security classifications on this page and updated information on information management obligations. This responds to users’ needs for clear information about security in the digital environment.

The sixth edition did not include information about the Australian Government protective security policy, the classification of information or protective markings. The chapter ‘Restrictions on publishing’ in the sixth edition focussed on legal protections such as copyright, privacy and defamation.

The Content Guide did not include information about security classifications.

About this page

References

Attorney-General’s Department (n.d.) Application of the Protective Security Policy Framework, Attorney-General’s Department website, accessed 3 December 2019.

Attorney-General’s Department (n.d.) Information security, Attorney-General’s Department website, accessed 3 December 2019.

Attorney-General’s Department (n.d.) Sensitive and classified information, Attorney-General’s Department website, accessed 3 December 2019.

Porter C (2018) Directive on the security of government business, Attorney-General’s Department website, accessed 3 December 2019.

This page was updated Monday 21 September 2020.

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