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Considering Additional Risk

The risk of abuse for some people with disability can increase depending on a range of personal and service type factors. This includes gender, age, disability type and complexity, behaviours of concern, communication needs, culture and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander identity. Understanding the increased risk associated with specific services and settings is also vital for supporting people safely.

Exploring Risk: A Zero Tolerance Research Report considers these risks and how they can intersect to increase risk of abuse, neglect and violence.

These resources and links to useful information will help you understand and address these risks.

These resources are designed to help you understand and address personal risks of abuse, neglect and violence.


  • Stop the Violence Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA), People with Disability Australia (PWDA), The University of NSW (UNSW)
  • Voices Against Violence Women with Disabilities Victoria, Office of the Public Advocate, Domestic Violence Resources Centre Victoria

People with complex communication support needs

  • Speak Up and Be Safe: Free communication aids and resources to assist adult with a cognitive disability and/or communication difficulties identify and report abuse. Developed by SCOPE Communication and Inclusion Resource Centre.

Children and Young people with Disability

Domestic and Family Violence

These resources are designed to help you understand and address the risks of abuse, neglect and violence to your organisation.

Trauma Informed Support is a contemporary, evidence-based approach to supporting people who may have experienced trauma in their lives.

The Trauma Informed Support films have been developed to assist support workers, providers, people with disability and their families to understand what trauma is, the impact it can have, and ways in which everyone in an organisation can provide trauma-informed support.

Each film will help you to start a conversation about a different aspect of Trauma Informed Support. There are questions at the end of each film to help you to talk to each other. The films can be watched in sequential order with opportunities for reflection and discussion in between each film.

Alternatively, if there is a particular topic of interest, each film can be watched on its own.

Some tips for positive conversations: 

  • Think about where and when you will have the conversation so that everyone is comfortable and free from distraction.
  • Make sure you allow enough time so that everyone has the opportunity to speak and be heard.
  • Think about what follow-up might be needed. Let people know how they can keep the conversation going and where they can get support if needed.
  • Consider who you would like to facilitate the conversation.
Download the Facilitators Guide for additional tips, information and resources to facilitate conversations about the five Trauma Informed Support Films.

Getting the support you need

Some of the things that are talked about in the films or that you talk about together might bring up feelings for people. This may be because of things you have experienced or seen in your work or personal life.

Please talk to someone you trust if you need to discuss any of the issues covered in these films. This may include a family member or friend, or a supervisor or manager.

You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for confidential 24-hour telephone crisis support.

Understanding Trauma

This film lays the foundation for understanding trauma and how it can affect people differently throughout their lives. Exploring the impact of trauma on the brain and the physiological responses it can prompt, this film aims to build understanding about human behaviour that supports a safer, more sensitive approach to supporting people who may have experienced trauma.

What is Trauma Informed Support

Acknowledging the possibility of trauma for the people you support is the first step in providing trauma informed support. This film explores the six foundational values of Trauma Informed Support - an evidence based, therapeutic approach which recognises signs and symptoms of trauma, enables pathways for recovery and actively seeks to avoid re-traumatisation.

A Trauma Informed approach to Positive Behaviour Support

Positive Behaviour Support is an approach which views all behaviour as communication, and aims to improve a person’s quality of life and build on their strengths. Understanding the impacts of trauma creates an opportunity to provide more effective positive behaviour support, as we are more attuned to a person’s needs and can respond in a holistic manner. This film provides key practices for implementing positive behaviour support through a trauma informed lens.

How can Organisations Embed a Trauma Informed Approach?

Embedding Trauma Informed support into organisations begins with recognising that the people who use its services, their families and staff may all have experienced trauma at some point. Drawing on the work of the Taking Time Framework (Jackson and Waters 2015), this film offers practical suggestions for how all levels of an organisation can play a powerful role in building and sustaining a trauma informed culture.

Building networks of support and recognising vicarious trauma

An important part of providing effective Trauma Informed Support is knowing when either you or the person you are supporting might need additional help. This film focusses on how we can build strong networks of support, and the ways in which individuals and organisations can recognise and respond to the signs and symptoms of vicarious trauma.


Much of the content of these films was based on the Taking Time Framework (A Trauma Informed Framework for Supporting People with Intellectual Disability)*.

*Jackson, A. L., & Waters, S. E. (2015). Taking Time – Framework: A trauma-informed framework for supporting people with intellectual disability. Melbourne, Australia: Berry Street. This report was sponsored by the NSW Statewide Behaviour Intervention Service (SBIS), Clinical Innovation and Governance (CIG), Ageing Disability and Home Care (ADHC), Family and Community Services (FACS).

Positive behaviour support is a respectful and ethical approach to supporting people who may use behaviours to communicate their needs.  The primary goal of this evidence-based approach is to improve a person’s quality of life and to reduce and eliminate the use of restrictive practices. 

The Foundations of Positive Behaviour Support films provide an overview of positive behaviour support and discuss some of the foundational elements that are necessary for good positive behaviour support to occur. The films recognise that these foundational elements should be embedded into the support provided to everyone.

Getting the support you need

Some of the things that are talked about in these films or that you talk about with others might bring up certain feelings. This may be because of things you have experienced or seen in your work or personal life.

Please talk to someone you trust if you need to discuss any of the issues covered in these films. This may include a family member or friend, or a supervisor or manager.

You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for confidential 24-hour telephone crisis support or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

What is Positive Behaviour Support

This film provides an overview of positive behaviour support and outlines a number of important elements that are essential to the approach. It also discusses the components of a good positive behaviour support plan and considers the factors in the surrounding environment that might be contributing to a behaviour occurring.

Quality of Life

This film explores the primary focus of positive behaviour support, improving quality of life, which can mean different things to different people. Getting to know and understand the people you are supporting, developing trusting and respectful relationships, and supporting people to feel empowered in all areas of their life helps to lay the foundation for great positive behaviour support.

Listening and Communicating

There are many different ways that people may communicate their needs including facial expressions, gestures, touch, eye contact, words, use of a communication device or pictures. Tuning in to the different ways people communicate and really listening is an important skill to develop. This film also discusses the importance of checking in with the people you support and reflecting on practice.

Being Aware of Sensory Needs and Preferences

Getting to know the sensory needs and preference of the people you support is fundamental to providing good positive behaviour support. This film discusses the need to be aware of the immediate environment and consider what might need to change to ensure people's needs are met. This may include things like lighting, temperature and sound but can also include your own energy and body language.

Upholding the Values of Positive Behaviour Support

Positive behaviour support is a human rights based approach which is underpinned by important values including respect, dignity, empathy, choice, person centeredness and unconditional positive regard. This film encourages reflection about what support workers bring to their role each day such as their values, their mood and their ability to self-reflect. It also discusses ways to approach conversations respectfully about restrictive practices with families to ensure that positive relationships are maintained whilst upholding the rights of the people we support and using least restrictive alternatives.

NDS is currently reviewing and updating these films and companion guide to ensure our Zero Tolerance resources reflect any changes in the sector. Revised resources are expected to be back online in June 2022. NDS will be promoting the updated resources when they become available.
We apologies for any inconvenience.

Preventing and Responding to Domestic and Family Violence Films

Women with Disabilities Victoria has collaborated with National Disability Services to develop four short films for disability workers on family violence and disability. The films are:

  • Introduction
  • Preventing and responding to family violence
  • Prevention of domestic and family violence
  • Early intervention in domestic and family violence

The purpose of the films is to help disability workers identify and respond to family violence. Research shows that people with disabilities experience higher rates of violence than people without disabilities. Women with disabilities in particular experience very high rates of family and domestic violence. The disability workforce has a vital role to play in preventing, identifying and responding to domestic and family violence.

For more information about the topics covered in these films and more about domestic and family violence and to get support please go to Women with Disabilities Victoria website.


Preventing and responding to family violence

This film provides an overview of domestic family violence and introduces the three other films. The films use scenarios to assist disability workers to identify, understand, prevent and appropriately respond to domestic family violence.

Research shows people with disabilities experience higher rates of violence than people without disabilities.  Women with disabilities experience very high rates of domestic and family violence.

Audio description of film:


Prevention of domestic and family violence

This film focuses on prevention of violence against women and people with disabilities. Prevention of violence means doing things to change the causes of domestic and family violence.

More about prevention

Family violence is preventable. To prevent violence, we need to understand its causes. The causes are also called ‘drivers’. The drivers of domestic and family violence include beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that make it possible and acceptable for someone to use violence.

Drivers of violence against people with disabilities include negative attitudes toward disability, and control of decision-making by people without disabilities.

Prevention of domestic and family violence is about doing things to change the drivers of violence - like challenging negative beliefs about people with disabilities and sexist attitudes and behaviours and increasing education. It’s about changing our culture and changing society, so we can help stop family violence before it starts.

Points of reflection: 

What positive examples of prevention did you see in the film ? What did people do to: 

  • support respectful relationships?
  • support financial independence and decision-making?
  • provide access to appropriate education?
  • speak up and against disrespectful language and actions?

Have you seen anything similar to these examples of prevention in your own work?

Audio description of film:

Early Intervention:

Early intervention in domestic and family violence: 
This video focuses on intervention in response to family violence early warning signs. Early intervention aims to ‘change the course’ for people at higher risk of experiencing violence.

About early intervention 

It’s important to understand what family violence is so you can recognise early warning signs and take action. Warning signs can include subtle or repeated patterns of control or coercion. Loss of power and control increases the risk of family violence. It can be hard for people with disabilities to recognise and challenge a pattern of control or abuse if they don’t know their rights and don’t have the power to make their own decisions. 

Early intervention means understanding who is at risk of family violence and doing things to support them to be safe, before violence happens.
A good example of risk is when someone has a communication board but there is no symbol they can use to report abuse. Early intervention can also include educating people about knowing what family violence is, what their rights are, and what they can do if they experience family violence. An example would be making sure people have information about what family violence is and where they can get help. 

Points for reflection: 

  • Did you recognise the early warning signs? 
  • What sort of supports were suggested by the support workers? 
  • Have you seen something similar to the scenario in this film? 

Audio description of film:


Responding to domestic and family violence

This film focuses on how to respond to family violence experienced by people with disabilities.

About responding to domestic and family violence 

When you are working with someone experiencing family violence, safety is a priority. It is essential to get advice so your actions don’t increase the risk of harm for the person you are supporting.

Talk to your organisation and make sure you understand your professional and legal obligations. An example of responding would be helping a person call a family violence service for support or the police to report the family violence.

A family violence service can help make a safety plan and provide other support. Some people may need to go to a refuge to be safe.

Supporting someone experiencing family violence can be confronting. It’s important to remember you might need support for yourself to understand and deal with what has happened. Remember you can use phone services like 1800 RESPECT to debrief. You can also talk to your manager or use your employee assistance program.

Points for reflection: 

  • Where can you get advice to support someone experiencing domestic and family violence?
  • When is it appropriate for police to be involved?

Audio description of film:

Other resources: 

The current environment of increased uncertainty, isolation and physical distancing means that many community members including people with disability are navigating additional risks to health, safety and wellbeing. Those who don’t use words to communicate, or who are facing hardship due to family violence or mental health are particularly at risk during this time.

This session is an opportunity to explore the extent and impact of additional risks, and discuss practical solutions we can all take to ensure service providers, people with disability and the wider community are as safe and supported as possible.
This webinar includes:

  • An overview of the Zero Tolerance Framework and available resources, hosted by the NDS Practice Support Network
    • Presentations from a panel of guest speakers on:
    • Family violence
    • Mental health
    • Supporting those who don’t use words to communicate
    • Peer support

National Disability Services hosted an interactive webinar discussing Positive Behaviour Support during Covid-19 on the 4th of June 2020.

This webinar includes:

  • The official launch of the Foundations of Positive Behaviour Support films, developed as part of the NDS Zero Tolerance initiative
  • An example of good practice where positive behaviour support has led to an increase in quality of life and a reduction in restrictive practices
  • A panel discussion regarding positive behaviour support during Covid-19 restrictions with representatives from the NDIS Commission, Victorian Office of the Senior Practitioner and a service provider
  • Details regarding the PBS practitioners development program (available to Victorian practitioners) via the University of Melbourne.

Contact information
For more information contact Mary Lou McPherson, National Practice Lead - Zero Tolerance Initiative, (03) 8341 4300, submit enquiry/feedback

© National Disability Services (NDS) 2017 applies to NDS Zero Tolerance logo, Zero Tolerance Framework and The Empowerment Circle.

Copyright permissions
NDS grants permission for users to copy, distribute, display, download and otherwise freely deal with Zero Tolerance resources for any personal or organisational purpose, on condition that proper acknowledgment is included on all uses. Any use of Zero Tolerance resources for commercial gain is strictly prohibited.