ChilOut (Children Out of Detention) is a group opposed to the mandatory detention of children under 18 in immigration detention centres in Australia. The group was formed in 2001, in the context of the policies of the Howard government regarding asylum seekers in Australia.
The group was inspired by program on ABC Television showed an Iranian child called Shayan Badraie in immigration detention suffering post traumatic stress disorder.
A refugee advocate describes her response when she first saw the boy: "At first I believed he was a fake boy; a child made to look like a boy, a fundraiser for famine in Africa." (Acting from the Heart, Sarah Mares and Louise Newman (eds), p 6).
The Federal Government has since conceded that the child has been psychologically damaged while in mandatory detention. According to his lawyers: "The settlement is an acceptance of responsibility for the psychiatric injuries suffered by Shayan as a result of the shocking circumstances in which he was detained."
ChilOut's aim was to change the Migration Act 1958, to release all children and their families from mandatory and indefinite immigration detention. It did this mainly by petitioning media and politicians, through a growing community base of volunteers.
In 2005, ChilOut won the Community (Organisation) Award at the 2005 Human Rights Awards.
At its zenith it had over 4,000 members. Most children in immigration detention in Australia have been released (as at July 2005). At that time the Migration Act 1968 was amended to effectively say that children should only be detained as a last resort.
The group dissolved itself upon the election of the Labor government in 2007 under the mistaken belief that the ALP would be more progressive on refugee rights than the Howard government. The group reformed in 2011 when they realised that this was not the case.
According to the Department of Immigration there are currently 1731 children in locked detention in Australia as at August 2013.