18 Sep
Issue Paper summary: Restrictive practices pt 1

Issue Paper summary: Restrictive practices pt 1

Please note that the contents of this article may contain distressing or difficult themes for readers.  

The Royal Commission recently extended the deadline to 2nd October for responses to the Restrictive Practices Issue Paper. This allows more time for quality submissions. Today we look at what a restrictive practice is, and why and when it happens. 

Download all versions of the paper here.  

What is a restrictive practice? 

This is any action or behaviour that stops a person from doing something, and limits their rights or freedom. They are used as a last option to protect the person and others around them from harm.  

For people with disability this includes stopping or protecting a person from challenging behaviours or behaviours of concern. These are a person’s behaviours that put themselves or others in danger. 

This includes: 

Seclusion: When you’re restricted to a physical space and can’t leave. Like being locked in a room. 

Restraints: This can be:  

  • Physical – holding someone down 
  • Chemical – using medication 
  • Mechanical – disconnecting power to a communication or mobility device 
  • Environmental – removing access to certain areas 
  • Psychosocial – telling someone over and over they can’t do something but without giving a good reason 

Where does this happen? 

Restrictive practices may occur at any point in a person’s life, including in childhood, teenage years and adulthood. Restrictive practices can have ongoing effects across their life. There may be points in a person’s life where they are at a higher risk of being subjected to restrictive practices. 

The Royal Commission is interested in when and where restrictive practices occur, as we know it happens at different life stages and environments. 

Home: These practices happen particularly in group homes. Households dealing with domestic and family violence are also likely to use restrictions.  

Health system: Medication is often used as a restraint in healthcare and common for mental health situations. Research shows that medication is regularly used on people with disability without any real need for it. 

Detention centres: People with disability, especially First Nations people, are at high risk of restrictive practices. They can often be kept alone and away from others for long periods of time. These practices can also continue after they leave prison. 

Restrictive practices are also found in support programs and sessions, workplaces, and in schools. 

Current legislation 

There is no current law in Australia against restrictive practices. Each state and territory has their own standards and guidelines, which can make it hard to understand what is and isn’t allowed. 

The NDIS requires service providers to be approved by the Quality and Safeguards Commission before using these practices. Aged care providers are also required to use restraints as a last option with continual monitoring. 

Meanwhile, some states and territories ask service providers to get approval for practices through a state senior practitioner or a guardian. 

The Commission want to know how these laws and guidelines can be improved to protect people with disability from practices that cause violence, abuse, neglect, or exploitation. 


In our next article we look at the different effects of these practices and some alternatives. If you would like any support after reading this article, head to our support page. 

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