International obligations arising from ratification of the OPCAT agreement (Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment) – Australian Perspective

Dr Lynne Coulson Barr, Victoria’s Mental Health Complaints Commissioner, will discuss the way in which her office assesses issues raised in complaints through the ‘lens’ of the rights and requirements set out in Victoria’s Mental Health Act 2014 and the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006. The ratification of OPCAT can be seen as bringing a sharper focus to this lens, as it this protocol will place an additional degree of accountability on mental health services to ensure that people do not experience cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment in inpatient settings. This was highlighted in the MHCC’s sexual safety project report ‘The right to be safe: ensuring sexual safety in acute mental health inpatient units.’ The findings of this 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 with trauma histories.

Dr Lynne Coulson Barr will also discuss some of the considerations and input that her office has given to the work by the Victorian Ombudsman on the implications of OPCAT and approaches to inspections and monitoring.


TERP focuses on identifying, avoiding and reducing harm across all environments in which the care of people with mental ill health is provided. TERP inforces Australia’s commitment to reduce the use of, and eliminate restrictive practices as a priority for action. Each jurisdiction, in conjunction with the Safety and Quality Partnership Standing Committee and the Commonwealth Government, works towards this vision by holding a series of forums providing an opportunity to learn and grow from local and national initiatives to eliminate restrictive practices and create a dialogue for future care.

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