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Restrictive practices: A pathway to elimination

  • Research program
Publication date

Research Report – Restrictive practices: A pathway to elimination


The Disability Royal Commission has published a research report that looks at restrictive practices, and how to reduce and eliminate them.

The report was written by researchers at:

  • University of Melbourne

  • University of Technology Sydney

  • University of Sydney.

This video is a summary of that report.


In this report restrictive practices refer to different interventions such as:

  • chemical, mechanical, physical and environmental restraint, and seclusion.
  • guardianship and financial management. This is where a person is legally appointed to make decisions for a person with disability. Decisions might include where they live, what health care they get and how their money is managed.

The research asked some questions including the following:

  • What causes people to us restrictive practices against a person with disability?

  • How can we reduce or eliminate the use of restrictive practices?

What did the research find?

The research made several findings. They include:

  • Restrictive practices are not in line with international human rights obligations. International law prohibits torture and cruel or degrading treatment or punishment. Restrictive practices that are cruel or inhumane must be banned.

  • Restrictive practices strip people with disability of dignity. People with disability can experience trauma and pain when restrictive practices are used against them. Many feel scared and abandoned when left alone in seclusion. They can feel disempowered as if everything has been taken away from them. Some people with disability feel that restrictive practices are cruel, and they are used as a punishment against them. Some people felt restrictive practices contribute to life-long trauma.

  • Restrictive practices are influenced by a system of violence, coercion and control. This system operates on an individual level, and within relationships, such as between carer and person with disability, institutions and the broader society. For example, uneven power dynamics in a relationship (such as between carer and person with disability) and laws that allow the use of restrictive practices.

  • The effectiveness of positive behaviour support is mixed and inconclusive.

What does the research recommend?

The report recommends that the governments of Australia put in place an action plan to eliminate restrictive practices.

This plan should:

  • prohibit restrictive practices

  • change social attitudes related to people with disability – to stop stereotypes, prejudices and harmful practices being used against people with disability

  • acknowledge and address past and current injustice associated with the use of restrictive practices against people with disability. For example, Australian governments could set up ‘truth-telling’. This is where people give testimonies about their experience through something like a government inquiry. This would help broader society learn about the harms of restrictive practices and prepare for change.

  • end segregation of people with disability in systems like schools, group homes and mental health facilities

  • recognise autonomy of people with disability to make decisions about what happens to their bodies and lives

  • use trauma-informed support approaches in services

  • adequately resource independent living and full inclusion for people with disability

  • provide redress for people with disability who have experienced restrictive practices.

More information:

To read the full report, visit our website. Go to the ‘Publications’ section and click on ‘Research program’.