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Restrictive practices in aged care

The use of restrictive practices in residential aged care and other health and disability care settings is a key human rights issue in Australia. The inappropriate use of restrictive practices is concerning because it can cause physical and psychological harm to the person being restricted. It can constitute both a breach of the law and a breach of a person’s human rights.

Common types of restrictive practices include:

  • Detention (e.g. locking a person in a room)
  • Seclusion (e.g. locking a person alone in a room for a limited period of time)
  • Physical restraint (e.g. clasping a person’s hands or feet to stop them from moving)
  • Mechanical restraint (e.g. tying a person to a chair or bed)
  • Chemical restraint (e.g. giving a person a sedative)
  • Electronic restraint (e.g. using tracking bracelets, camera surveillance, restrictions on media devices).

A campaign for the development of an appropriate legislative framework for the authorisation of the use of restrictive practices in residential aged care has been a key focus of the Public Advocate’s work since 2016.

Since 2021, Australia has had in place a framework for the use of restrictive practices in residential aged care. However, the Public Advocate continues to have significant concerns about both the lack of clarity of current regulatory requirements concerning the use of restrictive practices in aged care settings, and about the ‘consent’ model that is a central feature of the authorisation framework.

In 2021, the Public Advocate released a restrictive practices reform options paper for Queensland, which proposes the use of a senior practitioner authorisation model across all settings where restrictive practices are used in Queensland. You can read this paper here (PDF, 163.7 KB).

Throughout 2022 and 2023, the Public Advocate published five opinion pieces in the Australian Ageing Agenda critiquing current aged care restrictive practices authorisation processes. They can be accessed here: