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The Queensland Mental Health Commission welcomes the Queensland Government’s announcement to introduce legislation to enable United Nations officials to visit Queensland’s locked mental health wards.

What is OPCAT?

The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) is an international agreement aimed at preventing torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

OPCAT was adopted by the United Nations in 2002 and entered into force in 2006. The Australian Government ratified the protocol in December 2017.

OPCAT is a human rights treaty that where states agree to an independent mechanism to conduct inspections of all places of detention and closed environments. States also agree to international inspections of places of detention by the United Nations.

The objective of OPCAT is to prevent the mistreatment of people in all places of detention, including locked mental health wards.

Read more about Australia's obligations under OPCAT.

Supporting human rights

The Commission is committed to supporting a human rights culture in Queensland and strengthening the human rights protections of all Queenslanders, including those living with a mental illness and/or problematic alcohol and other drug use.

People with a mental illness who are treated involuntarily on locked mental health wards are especially vulnerable and therefore in need of human rights protections.

Those are provided by the Queensland Human Rights Act 2019; however, Australia’s international human rights obligations also play an important role.

OPCAT legislation

On 2 June 2023, the Queensland Monitoring of Places of Detention (Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture) Act 2023 commenced.

This Act will ensure that United Nations officials will have access to locked mental health wards in Queensland. This process will ensure the protection of the human rights of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

The Commission looks forward to the finalisation of the implementation of OPCAT in coming months. This will be an important milestone in achieving Australia’s as well as Queensland’s human rights commitments and obligations.