The History of License Plates in Australia

The History of License Plates in Australia

At, we are mad about license plates. But, you might be wondering where license plates came from, why do they even exist and how have they changed since their introduction into Australia. No need to wonder any longer. Below, we have decided to share the history of number plates in Australia. Enjoy !  

Where it all began in Australia
License plates were introduced from 1910, as a direct result of our English cousins deciding to also implement a car recognition system, following a spate of injuries with no accountability from the driver who has committed these offences. All Australian plates started at number 1 and were manufactured in enamel. 

From 1936, it was decided that Australian license plates would become uniform in size and use embossing in standard Australian dies, beginning with New South Wales, FCT (now ACT) and Victoria.  

During 1951 through 1952, it was decided that Australian automobiles would adopt a broad scheme across all states and territories for vehicle number plates. Both New South Wales and Victoria had previously issued plates with 2-letters, 3-digits, white on a black background. However, while implemented, this was not entirely popular as some states and territories preferred their own identity reflected on their vehicles instead. There was some initial resistance to the scheme but by 1956 the remaining states and territories moved into standard Australian embossing from either stamped or enamel, standardising in dimensions of 372 mm (14.6 in) × 134 mm (5.3 in). 

ACT YAA-000 to YZZ-999 

NSW AAA-000 to ZLF-999 

NT 1 to 999-999 

QLD NAA-000 to PZZ-999 

SA RAA-000 to XUN-299 

TAS WAA-000 to WZZ-999 

VIC AAA-000 to ZZZ-999 

WA UAA-000 to UZZ-999 then XAA-000 to XZZ-999 

These allocations continued until the sates began to overlap with each other, making it near impossible to accurately track any automobile that had travelled between states.  

Where are we today 
All states and territories now have adopted their own new series replacing the ABC-123 series and no longer follow grouped allocations as in the 1950s, Instead, alpha/numeric combinations can be in the beginning to the end of the series (except Northern Territory). Today’s plates tend to bear the State or Territory name and perhaps a state motto or slogan at the top and/or bottom of the plate. Recent issues of plates (since the 1980s) also often use the state's colours and may include some imagery related to the state (such as the state's logo as the sequence separator). 

Today’s licensing has also extended to the military as well as the government, all previously except from licensing and registration. The current Australian Army registration plate format is Annnnn with this newer format beginning in 2003. The A represents "Army" with the next two digits representing the year the vehicle was first registered. For instance, a 2008 model people moved used to transport army cadets might have the plate A08227. This format has also been adopted by the Defence Force, Navy, and Air Force with combinations Dnnnnn, Nnnnnn and Rnnnnn respectively. 

The Commonwealth Government of Australia used the Z prefix for its government owned vehicles up until 2000 when the Commonwealth Vehicle Registry was closed. These plates were on a black on white background, usually marked with "C of A" at the top of the plate – an abbreviation of Commonwealth of Australia and the leading Z being red to further distinguish it from other state plates. 

Lastly, diplomatic plates are issued to foreign diplomats by the Government of the Australian Capital Territory. They would formerly grant diplomatic immunity to the vehicle and driver from all traffic laws, speed limits, parking infringements and tolls in all reasonable course of duty by a diplomatic officer, in compliance with international treaty, but this is no longer the case. They follow the format of 'DC nnnn', 'DCnnnnn', 'DX nnnn' or 'DXnnnnn', where the first two or three numbers are the code for the home country of the diplomat and have black text on a powder blue background.  

So there you have it, everything you ever wanted to know about license plates in Australia. At, we are particularly fond of custom license plates and our amazing range of mini plates for ride ons, scooters and bikes make it easy for you to share this amazing history of number plates with your little ones.  

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