Parent Warning

Parents everywhere will buy their children hand-held radios, often sold as:

  • licence-free UHF
  • UHF Communicators
  • UHF Personal Radio
  • 80 Channel Radio
  • 80 Channel UHF
  • 80 Channel Handheld

Whatever the description these radios are all CB Radio, also known as Citizen Band Radio, operating on the Australian UHF CB Band. This is a public band that is available to anyone to use, and is in fact very widely used by hobbyists, truckies, businesses, travellers and more. This causes a couple of issues that parents need to be aware of:

  1. As the band is widely used by truckies and hobbyists who use profane and explicit language, the children can very easily be exposed to these conversations and therefore profane language that, if it were in a movie, would require an R rating at times; and
  2. Conversations between your children and friends/family will never be private, even if using the “privacy tones”, and may be overheard by other local CB users and, in some cases, the CB users could even engage the children in conversation; and
  3. Whilst sold as “licence free” all of these radios are governed by a Class Licence and are therefore under the control of Federal laws concerning their use. This means that improper use could open the parent to penalties of up to 5 years prison.

Sample of a “licence-free” hand-held UHF radio that is CB.

Oricom UHF CB hand-held units

Oricom mobile UHF CB radio. Operates on same channels as the two hand-held examples.

The CB band contains a significant number of “rough and ready” users such as truck drivers, crane drivers, dock workers, etc. Many of these include a large number of profanities in their conversations, and in some cases discuss explicit content in great detail. There are also a number of hobbyists who enjoy doing the same thing, meaning there are a number of channels that contain profane and/or sexually explicit content.

The equipment shown above use the same frequencies and can therefore be used to listen and talk to these people. This means that if any of these are local and within range, bearing in mind their radio equipment will have a greater range than the handheld radios, your children will easily be able to listen to this content and, in some circumstances, even join in the conversation!

CB Radio is CB Radio and the handheld equipment sold is exactly the same as the UHF CB set used in the truck or car or home, except it is smaller and with a smaller antenna. They can talk to each other without a problem, if within range of each other. If you don’t want your young son or daughter to listen to the often profane conversations you would be best to keep them away from the Road Channel, Call Channel and local repeater channels as well. The legal channel allocation for the UHF CB band in Australia is presented on our CB Channels page, or you can download a PDF file listing the channel allocations so it can be kept handy for future reference – UHF Channels (1483 downloads) .


CB is a public band and this means that anyone with a UHF CB within range will be able to listen to everything your children are saying on their radio. Some of these radios are sold with what is described as “38 privacy tones”, or in some cases even “38 privacy channels” or “sub-channels”. This gives the parents the false security that nobody other than their children and their friends can hear and interact with them.

What this refers to is a feature also known as “CTCSS” or “Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System”. It was intended for business users who didn’t want to listen to everyone else on a shared channel except for other users from their company. The system works by transmitting an inaudible tone, or “sub-tone”, when the radio transmits. Other radios have their speaker muted or “switched-off”, unless the radio receives the correct “sub-tone”. Receiving this correct tone causes the radio to turn the speaker on, and the relevant transmission is received.

The downside of this system for CB is two-fold:

  1. Other users on the channel that are NOT using the “privacy tone” system will still be able to HEAR your transmissions, but they will not be able to TALK to you (this means they could easily hear details of a meeting location the children are organising); and
  2. Other users with this feature can easily “scan” through the codes until they find the one being used, at which time they can TALK to you as well as HEAR you.

So, the feature offers a false sense of security for parents as it is very easily overcome using almost every UHF CB on the market today! Whilst it will help prevent the children hearing transmissions from CB users, and therefore help prevent them hearing profanities and explicit messages, if someone wants to deliberately communicate with the children this feature will NOT prevent that from happening.


All of these units are sold as “licence-free”, giving the impression that there are no laws or rules that govern their use. In fact many salespeople will tell you that there are no laws controlling their use. Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth!

Prior to 1994 every CB user had to hold, and pay for, an individual licence for their radio equipment. This was known as an “Apparatus Licence” issued by the relevant Federal Government agency. In 1994 the Government changed the licensing system for CB equipment, introducing a “Class Licence” and removing the Apparatus Licence. The Class Licence meant that people no longer had to hold and pay for a licence for each CB as they were automatically covered by the Class Licence, however it also meant that many newcomers were subject to rules and licence conditions they probably never knew existed!

The Class Licence sets certain operating conditions that every user is subject to. These include things like maximum power, transmission type, and the designation of certain channels for specific uses. This means that using these channels for any other purpose (or misusing the channels or band contrary to the provisions of the Class Licence) can incur penalties of $420 on-the-spot fine, or up to $315,000 court imposed fine or 2 years imprisonment. Where the use interferes with an emergency call the penalty increases up to $1,050,000 court imposed fine or 5 years imprisonment (no option for on-the-spot fines for interference to emergency calls). Read more about the Class Licence on our CB Licensing page
The legislated channels are:

Channel(s) Use Notes
5 and 35 Emergency use only 5 is primary emergency channel, 35 is used as input for emergency channel repeaters
1 to 8
41 to 48
Repeater output channels
31 to 38
71 to 78
Repeater input channels
11 General Call Channel
22 and 23 Data Only No voice permitted on these channels

On top of this there are “common use” channels that are well known and used for specific purposes. Using these for other use, although not illegal, could solicit abuse and ill feelings from others on the channel. These channels are:

Channel Use Notes
40 Road or “truckie” channel Good for road conditions while driving, bad if you want to avoid R rated content
29 Pacific Highway/Motorway Same comments as above
10 4WD channel Used by 4WD clubs
18 Caravan channel Used by caravaners and travellers

You can download a copy of these channel designations from our Download Page (choose the UHF Channels download).

More Information

You can download our Fact Sheets that contain more information on these subjects from our Fact Sheets page. Otherwise, if you have questions or concerns please feel free to Contact Us, or if urgent you can call our Duty Officer on 0448 13 66 13.