Experiences of restrictive practices: A view from people with disabilities and family carers

25 May 2009



• Under the Disability Act 2006, the Senior Practitioner seeks to manage one interface between individual freedom and public good, that is, to manage behaviour that is of danger to the person with disability or to others, or to their property.

• Authorised Program Officers (APOs) are required to identify ‘behaviours of concern’ and to say, within a Behaviour Support Plan (BSP), what restrictive interventions will be used to change the person’s behaviour.

• In this research, focus groups and interactive theatre work with twenty-three people with disabilities and interviews with eleven family carers were undertaken to find out their views on restrictive practices and behaviours of concern.

This report of the views and analysis of these views shows that:

• Feeling safe is a priority for people with disabilities and their family carers; yet many people feel unsafe.

• Many behaviours seen as being ‘of concern’ can be understood better as adaptive behaviours to maladaptive environments. These behaviours can be seen as forms of ‘resistance’ or ‘protest’.

• Behaviours of ‘resistance’ and ‘protest’ should be seen as legitimate responses to difficult environments and situations, and not a reason for restrictions designed to change the person and their behaviour.

• Restrictive practices challenge human rights and give rise to concerns over social justice. Changing the person and their behaviour should not be the starting point. Rather, it is necessary initially to examine how to change services, systems and environments as a means of changing behaviour.


  • Paul Ramcharan, Co-ordinator Research and Public Policy, Australian Centre for Human Rights Education, RMIT University
  • Karen Nankervis, Associate Professor, Division of Disability Studies, RMIT University
  • Maria Strong, Self Advocate and co-researcher, Division of Disability Studies, RMIT University
  • Alan Robertson, Self Advocate and co-researcher, Division of Disability Studies, RMIT University



  • Experiences of restrictive practices (doc 465.5 KB) (26)
  • Experiences of restrictive practices - easy read (doc 64.5 KB) (20)
  • Experiences of Restrictive Practices (PDF 469.3 KB) (52)
  • Experiences of restrictive practices - easy read (PDF 109.2 KB) (28)

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