The family of Tamil asylum seekers held in detention for more than four years are well on their way home to the central Queensland town of Biloela.
The family of four arrived in Brisbane on Wednesday afternoon, after leaving Perth earlier in the day.
They were whisked past waiting media after the long flight.
“Hello, Brisbane! Hello, Queensland!,” Nades Nadesalingam yelled out at the press pack as the family left the airport.
At Perth Airport ahead of their flight, his wife Priya thanked the Western Australian community before the family began their journey east.
“Me and my family are very happy to start our journey back to my community in Bilo,” she said.
Ms Nadesalingam also thanked staff at Perth Children’s Hospital who treated her daughter Tharnicaa for a blood infection after she was medically evacuated from Christmas Island last year.
The timing of the journey means Tharnicaa will celebrate her fifth birthday in Biloela on Sunday. She was just nine months old when the family first entered detention.
Priya, her husband Nades and their Australian-born daughters Kopika, 6, and Tharnicaa, 4, are expected to arrive in the central Queensland town on Friday afternoon.
Priya (left) and Nades Nadesalingam (right) and their daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa leave Brisbane Airport on Wednesday afternoon. Photo: AAP
Biloela will celebrate its Flourish multicultural festival on Saturday, which is likely to double as a welcome home.
The family has been through protracted legal proceedings to try to stay in Australia and were moved from Melbourne to Christmas Island before arriving in Perth.
A change in government has paved their way home.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he was proud the family was returning home.
“We grabbed this family in the middle of the night, took them down to Melbourne, then took them to Christmas Island, then they’ve ended up in Perth,” he said on Wednesday.
“These little girls, who were born in Australia, have got not just mental health issues but physical health issues as well.”
They were taken from Biloela in March 2018 and put in immigration detention, kicking off a more than 1500-day campaign from locals to get them back
Nearly 600,000 people signed Home to Bilo campaigner Angela Frederick’s Change.org petition in support of the family, and more than 53,000 phone calls and emails were made to Australian politicians from the family’s supporters across the country.
In 2019, courts blocked a Coalition attempt to send the family back to Sri Lanka.
They were held at the Christmas Island detention centre for two years until then-immigration minister Alex Hawke moved them to community detention in Perth in mid-2021.
Following the change of government, interim Home Affairs Minister Jim Chalmers exercised his power under Section 195A of the Migration Act to allow the family’s passage home.
“The effect of my intervention enables the family to return to Biloela, where they can reside lawfully in the community on bridging visas while they work towards the resolution of their immigration status, in accordance with Australian law,” he said last month.