Who We Are

Our History

ChilOut acknowledges and respects the Traditional Owners and Custodians of this land.

ChilOut was formed in 2001 in response to an episode of ABC’s Four Corners that exposed the physical and psychological breakdown of six-year-old asylum seeker (Shayan Badrai) who had been detained with his family in Villawood and Woomera Immigration Detention Centres for two years. This report shed light on the physical, psychological and mental effects of detention on children and young people. A group of concerned parents and professionals met to campaign on the issue and decided the best way to move forward was to form ChilOut – Children Out of Immigration Detention.

Following relentless advocacy by ChilOut and other organisations, Australia’s then prime minister agreed to soften the government’s treatment of children in detention in June 2005. The prime minister agreed to have amendments made to Australian law to introduce the principle that children should only be detained as a measure of last resort. Within a month after the amendment came into effect, all families with children had been released from detention facilities and moved into the community.

As a result of the release of children in 2005, ChilOut ceased its work and was formally commended by the Australian Human Rights Commission for the role it played in bringing about the release of children from detention.

A change of government and shift in policy soon resulted in children seeking asylum again being locked up in immigration detention centres. With the number of children in detention rising and the length of time they were spending in detention increasing, ChilOut recommenced its work in 2010.  

In July 2013, the number of children in detention reached a record high of 1992. Towards the end of 2014, following heightened advocacy efforts and increasing international condemnation, the Australian government promised to release all children from immigration detention by early 2015 (part of a deal to get harsh new asylum seeker measures passed in the Senate).

Today, many children still remain in Australian-run immigration detention centres offshore. ChilOut is committed to continuing its fight until every last child is released from Australian-run immigration detention centres and until legislative safeguards are in place to protect children and to ensure that no child is ever again detained for prolonged periods.

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