Kids don’t belong in detention centres

c. 2003

Donated by John Ellis

Museum of Australian Democracy collection

ChilOut (Children Out of Detention) is a community organisation opposed to the mandatory imprisonment of children under 18 years of age in immigration detention centres in Australia. The group was formed in 2001 in response to the policies of the Howard government relating to asylum seekers. The group sought the release of all children and their families from mandatory detention.

Prior to 2005 hundreds of children and their families were detained in remote immigration detention centres, often for extended periods. In 2004 the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission released A Last Resort?, the report of its National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention. The Inquiry found that the existing system was inconsistent with Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It also found that children detained for long periods were at high risk of suffering mental illness and trauma.

In 2005 the Migration Act was amended to include ‘as a principle’ that children should be detained only as a last resort. Children are no longer held in high security immigration detention centres, but they are still held in low security facilities. Child asylum seekers on Christmas Island are also subjected to mandatory detention.

ChilOut dissolved in 2007, believing that their objectives had been achieved, but reformed in 2010 when the debate regarding mandatory detention intensified. In October 2010 the Australian government announced that unaccompanied children and families with children would begin to be moved into community detention.

The donor of this badge, John Ellis, writes:

I wore this badge to events, especially those held to support refugees. It is not illegal to seek asylum and I believe that both major parties have, of recent times, turned the refugee issue into an emotive political one whereas it should [be] based on humanitarian considerations. Instead of showing leadership they have pandered to fears among certain sections of the electorate. When wearing the badge, it was a connection with other activists who supported refugees.