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The Office of Film and Literature Classification is the Australian Government agency that administers the classification scheme for all films and video games that are exhibited, sold or hired in Australia. It falls into the portfolio of the federal Attorney-General, and based on the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 . The OFLC also review publications on behalf of the states and territories who have their own laws; the onus is on the publisher or importer to decide if the publication needs to be checked out by the Office.

Decisions are made by a panel of upto twenty part-time representatives called the Classification Board, sourced from different backgrounds (at least one representative has to be a mother). Their members are selected by the Governor General, presumably at the advice of the Attorney-General. To ensure that Boards are in synch with community expectations and values, Community Assessment Panels may be asked to review material and give their own rating, to see if it is similar to what a Classification Board gave it. There is also the Classification Review Board, independent of the Classification Board, who convene for appeals.

The Ratings

The classification scheme gives parents some leeway with 'advisory' ratings, while making it illegal for X, R and MA material to be sold or rented to minors. The OFLC uses these criteria for rating films:

Films that
(a)depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified; or
(b) depict in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, a person who is, or who looks like, a child under 16 (whether the person is engaged in sexual activity or not); or
(c) promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence
Are rated as RC (refused classification). In other words, banned. Examples include Ken Park and Blaise Moi (passed by the Classification Board but held up in a review).

Films, aside from those rated as RC, that
(a) contain real depictions of actual sexual activity between consenting adults in which there is no violence, sexual violence, sexualised violence, coercion, sexually assaultive language, or fetishes or depictions which purposefully demean anyone involved in that activity for the enjoyment of viewers, in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult; and
(b) are unsuitable for a minor to see
Are rated as X
Logo: the letter 'X' in a square.

Films, aside those rated as RC or X, that are unsuitable for a minor to see
Are rated as R (Restricted classification)
Logo: the letter 'R' in a diamond, with the letters '18+' to the right.

Films, aside those rated as R, RC or X, that depict, express or otherwise deal with sex, violence or coarse language in such a manner as to be unsuitable for viewing by persons under 15
Are rated as MA (Mature Audience - Parental Advisory) (Mature Audience) (let the parents have the final say)
Logo: the letter 'M' in a circle, with the letters '15+' to the right.

Films, aside those rated as MA, R, RC or X, that cannot be recommended for viewing by persons who are under 15
Are rated as M (Mature Audience) (too raunchy for the parents to decide)
Logo: the letter 'M' in a hexagon

Films, aside those rated as M, MA, R, RC or X, that cannot be recommended for viewing by persons who are under 15 without the guidance of their parents or guardians
Are rated as PG (Parental Guidance) (less strict than MA)
Logo: the letters 'PG' in a rectangle

All other films are rated as G (General)
Logo: the letter 'G' in a triangle

For computer games, a similar classification system has been developed. There is however no X or PG rating, and the general rating is split between G and G(8+), for computer games less provocative than M that cannot be recommended for children under eight. The logo of all computer game classifications consist of a square, with the Australian coat of Arms above the relevant letter and age category. Of interest was that the Grand Theft Auto series were originally slapped with a RC classification before modifications were made, allowing it to be sold as a MA15+.

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