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Tamil asylum seeker family return to Biloela — as it happened

Priya, Nades and their daughters Kopica and Tharnicaa have returned to their adopted hometown after a four-year battle. 

See how their homecoming unfolded in our blog.

Key events

Live updates

By Daniel Colasimone

I have something in my eye

I'm definitely not crying, just have some dust particles in my eye.

We'll end today's live coverage with those lovely quotes from Priya below. 

See you next time. 

By Daniel Colasimone

Empowering those seeking protection in Australia

By Erin Semmler

Outside the airport, Priya said words could not describe how she felt when the plane hit the tarmac.

"Landing here gives me a lot of hope," she said.

"It's given me a lot of hope for my daughters and I'm hoping that I can give my girls a better future, a safe and happy life.

"I feel a new life is starting.

"I would like to thank everyone, Nades and me are so grateful for everyone involved in this."

Priya said the welcoming Biloela community were role models for Kopika and Tharnicaa.

"I want my girls to be kind and have open arms," she said.

"That's why when I got off the plane I just touched the land and gave my respect to this land because it is filled with good-hearted people."

Priya said she would be honoured to be considered a symbol of hope for others in detention.

"Sometimes people don't come up and speak for themselves because they are scared of the system that they might bring some uncertainty in their future or uncertainty for their family members," she said.

"I'm requesting, never feel afraid to speak up.

"There's a lot of people going under mental health and physical health [in detention].

"I hope this gives hope for other people that they can be free too and they can have a good life too.

"I'm kindly asking to the government that please give some certainty in life for all other refugees and let them have a peaceful life."

While the Nadesalingams are still on temporary bridging visas, the ABC understands the Albanese government is considering permanent residency for the family.

"I'm hoping that will happen soon," she says.

"I'm asking them please let us live here permanently, let my girls have hope in their future and let us live happily here in Bilo."

By Daniel Colasimone


Here's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese:

By Daniel Colasimone

Family praised for its bravery

Angela Fredericks of the Home to Bilo group just posted this message:

"Friends, we did it! Today, Priya, Nades, Kopika and Tharnicaa — the Nadesalingam family — came home to Biloela.

"We just stepped off the plane where Priya was reunited with Bronwyn, our dear friend and #HometoBilo co-founder, for the first time in more than four years.

"I wish you could all have seen the girls' smiles as the plane touched down.

"There have already been so many tears and hugs.

"Priya and Nades are two of the strongest people I know.

"Their four-year journey home to Biloela is only one chapter in their life-long stories of bravery and resilience.

"It won't surprise you to hear how determined Priya and Nades are to give back to our local community and do what they can to help others at risk of being forced to danger."

By Daniel Colasimone

'Many Tamils' facing deportation in Australia

By Erin Semmler

Tamil Refugee Council spokesman Barathan Vidhyapathy said the family had been through "unimagined cruelty".

"There are many Tamil families that are in similar situations, many Tamil people in general not just families are in this situation.

"They live in fear of being deported back to danger.

"We know that Sri Lanka is not safe for Tamils, it hasn't been for over 40, 50, 60, 70 years we could say."

Mr Vidhyapathy urged the Australian government to provide protection for Tamils.

"Our homeland of Tamil Eelam is occupied, there's one soldier for every six civilians – people can't live freely there at all," he said.

"We also demand that these people are given permanent protection, not just bridging visas, not just false promises.

"Everyone's deserving of a safe life and we want to give it to them here in Australia."

By Daniel Colasimone

'Australians have shown that we care'

By Erin Semmler

Angela Fredericks, and fellow Home to Bilo campaigner Vashini Jayakumar travelled to Perth on Monday to accompany the family on their journey to Biloela.

"We only got, 'Are we there yet?' twice," Ms Fredericks laughed.

Ms Fredericks said it was the first time in the past four years that the girls had been calm and content on a flight.

"They had heard screaming and shouting, they were separated, extremely traumatic journeys," she said.

"This was the first flight, as Priya said, they got to walk through the front of the airport, they got to all sit together, they got fed and they got colouring books, and they were actually able to be a family."

She said it was heartening to feel the love and support of half a million Australians.

"I just want to say from the bottom of my whole heart, I just have so much gratitude to not just the small town of Biloela who opened up our arms for this family, I want to thank all the people of Australia.

"Australians have shown that we care.

"Australians have shown that we can unite and we can ignore the narrative of fear and division and we can come together as one."

Ms Fredericks urged the nation to stay united.

"Please keep your hearts open Australia and we have got a lot of healing to do – today's the day to start," she said.

By Daniel Colasimone

Supporters urge the public to keep attention on the plight of asylum seekers

By Erin Semmler

In the time the Nadesalingams have been in detention, Home to Bilo campaigner Simeone Cameron has become a lawyer.

Ms Cameron lived in Biloela when the family was removed, but has since moved to Brisbane.

She travelled to Biloela today with Priya, Nades, Kopika and Tharnicaa.

"At the heart of the home to Bilo campaign has always been the resilience, the courage and hope of Priya and Nades who just wanted to have a safe and peaceful life for their daughters," she said.

"A little group of Biloela locals just sprung up around them and stubbornly refused to accept what our government said was immigration policy.

"It's just such a happy day after such torment.

"There were multiple deportation attempts, there was prolonged detention and that had terrible effects on this family and we can never forget that.

"So today we celebrate, but the next step is to make sure that we don't ever do this to anyone else in Australia ever again."

By Daniel Colasimone

Back in Bilo

By Daniel Colasimone

Priya Nadaraja thanks the community

By Daniel Colasimone

Key Event

'Love really does conquer all': The Nadesalingam family speaks

By Erin Semmler

Priya, Nades and supporters spoke to media outside Thangool Airport a short time ago.

"Thank you so much," Priya said.

"Me and my family is very happy again start my journey back to my community Bilo.

"My community and Australian people, my family, helping – thank you to all in Bilo community.

"I'm starting a new life … so happy, thank you."

Family friend Bronwyn Dendle says it is a special day.

"It's a special day for me personally because I haven't had the opportunity to see my friends in the flesh since they were unnecessarily taken from us over four years ago," she says.

"But it's also a really special day for the community of Biloela and Australia.

"Today is the day that we prove that you should never underestimate the power of the people.

"Today is the day where we prove that home will always be where the heart is.

"Today is the day that we prove that love really does conquer all.

"We are so, so grateful to have our beautiful little family home with us in Biloela."

By Daniel Colasimone

Priya Nadaraja kneels down to thank the family's supporters.

By Daniel Colasimone

'We missed you'

Some great photos of the scenes in Biloela from Rachel McGhee.

By Daniel Colasimone

Here's the moment again

Pure joy in Bilo.

If this doesn’t get the feels goin’, you ain’t got no feels


By Daniel Colasimone

And here's the moment they hopped off the plane

By Daniel Colasimone


Here are some of your comments. A joyous day for many.

Welcome home. You have Australia behind you now.

-Tim Burke

Many blessings on your family. I'm so happy for you.

Welcome home you beautiful patient people. Enjoy

-Jan Loveday
Hats off to the campaigners who worked tirelessly towards this wonderful outcome


By Daniel Colasimone

'Welcome home'

Katrina Beavan reports:

The family were greeted with loud cheers from a crowd of emotional supporters holding signs, chanting and smiling.

The family waved and blew kisses to the crowd as they disembarked the plane.

The crowd quickly broke into dance and song, shedding tears and sharing hugs. 

Coooeee! Welcome home...

Thank you to all involved who made this happen. What a joyous day.

-Elizabeth Henzell

By Daniel Colasimone

Key Event

And the Nadesalingam family is back in Biloela

Smiles and hugs among the family, and celebrations among supporters!

By Daniel Colasimone

The plane has touched down!

The supporters go wild.

By Daniel Colasimone

'Lots of tears' to come

By Katrina Beavan

Anne and John Smith, who are the parents of Home to Bilo campaigner Angela Frederick, say they're "beyond excited".

"We just had to be patient and wait it out," Anne said.

"The highs and the lows – nothing will beat this today.

"There's be lots of tears, just to see them come through those doors.

"I can't imagine how they will be feeling.

"It's been a long journey, what a wonderful day."

Supporter Shauna Cameron said she was up early to travel to Biloela from the Sunshine Coast and is "very excited" to see the Nadesalingham family return.

"Our family and friends have been very involved in the campaign for the four years since the family was taken," Ms Cameron said.

"And so we've sort of travelled the journey with them.

"We're very excited that after all this time they get to come back [to Biloela].

"They're a family that don't want a lot in life they just want safety, they want to be able to work and look after themselves."

By Daniel Colasimone

'A dream come true'

By Katrina Beavan

Friend and supporter Marie Austin is awaiting the family's arrival at Thangool Airport.

"To finally be able to see them walk into Biloela – it's just like a dream come true really," she said.

While watching the sky for the Nadesalingam's plane, Ms Austin is still in disbelief.

"I didn't ever want to think that it wouldn't but I just couldn't see how it was going to happen either," she said.

"I'm just so glad that we're here.

"It's been a really long four years to get to this point, it's a pity that it did take that long.

"Just to see them get off of that plane and to restart their lives here will just be amazing."

Ms Austin said the airport crowd was already emotional.

"It's just good to be here with people that are as excited as we are to see the family come home," she said.

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