At the Towards Eliminating Restrictive Practices (TERP) 12th National Forum 2018, Commissioner Lynne Coulson Barr will deliver a keynote presentation on obligations arising from Australia’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).

Commissioner Coulson Barr will discuss ways in which our office assesses quality and safety issues raised in complaints about Victorian public mental health services through the lens of the rights and requirements set out in the Mental Health Act 2014 and Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006

Australia’s ratification of OPCAT can be seen as bringing a sharper focus to this lens, as the protocol will place a greater degree of accountability on mental health services to ensure people do not experience cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in inpatient settings. 

The significance of the ratification was highlighted in the MHCC Sexual Safety Project report The right to be safe, the focus of which was ensuring people’s sexual safety in acute mental health inpatient units.

‘The findings of our report also point to the need to recognise that restrictive interventions can be experienced as a significant breach of a person’s sexual safety, particularly for women who have experienced trauma,’ Commissioner Coulson Barr said.

Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Black and Senior Adviser, Lived Experience and Education Keir Saltmarsh will also deliver a presentation exploring key themes identified in complaints about Victorian public mental health services, with a particular focus on complaints about restrictive interventions. 

This presentation will discuss approaches to resolving concerns raised by consumers, families and carers and the service improvements made as direct outcomes of the complaints process. 

Case examples and detailed aggregate data on numbers and types of complaints will assist service leaders in thinking about their approaches to restrictive interventions and ways in which associated harms can be addressed.  

The presentation will also highlight the importance of complaints and collaborative reviews of incidents in hearing and responding to consumer’s experiences of restrictive practices, and how this information can provide valuable insights into the culture of the service and the actions required to reduce or eliminate the use of seclusion and restraint. 

The conference will run from 7–8 November at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Hobart. To register, visit the conference website at