Tamil refugee Priya Nadesalingam falls to the ground and kisses it after returning to Australia


Emotional moment tearful Tamil mum falls to the ground and kisses it as her family arrives back in Biloela after four-year immigration battle to stay in Australia

  • The Nadesalingam refugee family have returned to their rural hometown Biloela 
  • Priya Nadesalingam was seen kissing the ground as she finally arrives home  
  • The family were locked in detention for four years as they battled to stay
  • Locals described their return as a ‘dream come true’ and cried as they reunited 

Sri Lankan refugee Priya Nadesalingam was so overcome with emotion at finally returning to Biloela that she fell to the ground in tears.

The Tamil woman arrived at Biloela with her husband Nades Nadesalingam and their Australian-born daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa on Friday.

It was the first time they had set foot in the central Queensland town in four years since they were locked in immigration detention.

Ms Nadesalingam fell to her knees and kissed the ground at nearby Thangool Airport as the crowd clapped and cheered her family’s arrival home. 

Priya Nadesalingam (centre) fell to her knees overcome with emotion and kissed the ground after her and her family touched down in Australia

Priya Nadesalingam (centre) fell to her knees overcome with emotion and kissed the ground after her and her family touched down in Australia

The family shared a hug on the tarmac, and the two girls waved to an emotional crowd who described their return as a ‘dream come true’. 

Ms Nadesalingams blew a kiss to waiting friends and supporters who fought for this moment since the family was first detained in March 2018.

The Nadesalingam were loved members of the community when their bridging visas expired in 2018 and they were taken into immigration detention. 

At that time authorities found they no longer met Australia’s refugee requirements.

Priya (centre) cried as she reunited with her Biloela friends for the first time in four years

Priya (centre) cried as she reunited with her Biloela friends for the first time in four years

Nades and Priya Nadesalingam hugged friends at Thangool Airport near their small home town of Biloela in central Queensland

Nades and Priya Nadesalingam hugged friends at Thangool Airport near their small home town of Biloela in central Queensland

Nearly 600,000 people signed Home to Bilo campaigner Angela Frederick’s petition in support of the family, and more than 53,000 phone calls and emails were made and sent to Australian politicians. 

However, the Albanese Government quickly allowed the family to finally to return home after it reversed on the Coalition’s policy days after winning the election.  

Ms Nadesalingam held a stuffed cockatoo toy, the bird the small town is named after, while waiting on the tarmac with her family.

Priya and Nades Nadesalingam (above) waved as they got off the plane at Thangool Airport

Priya and Nades Nadesalingam (above) waved as they got off the plane at Thangool Airport

Biloela locals met the family on the tarmac with 'welcome home' signs

Locals waited with greeting signs on the Thangool Airport tarmac to welcome home the Nadesalingam family

Biloela locals (above) met the family on the tarmac with ‘welcome home’ signs decorated with cockatoos, the bird which the small town is named after

‘Thank you so much,’ she later told reporters.

‘Me and my family are very happy again start our 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.’

The crowd hugged, cried, and danced together once reunited with the much-missed family.

‘To finally be able to see them walk into Biloela — it’s just like a dream come true really,’ local Marie Austin told the ABC.

Family friend Bronwyn Dendle said she played the emotional reunion ‘so many times’ in her head and was overjoyed to welcome the family back.

Priya Nadesalingam blew kisses to supporters and photographers as they got off the plane

Priya Nadesalingam blew kisses to supporters and photographers as they got off the plane

The family’s return coincides with little Tharnicaa’s fifth birthday, her first birthday out of detention, and Ms Dendle said she is excited to give her the party she deserves.

‘We’re going to have a birthday party in the park, which is what Bilo locals do. She’s specifically requested a pink party, so a pink party she will have,’ she said.

Their arrival coincideed with the Banana Shire’s Flourish Multicultural Festival on Saturday. 

Tharnicaa was just nine months old when her family was first thrown into an immigration detention centre in Melbourne. 

The Nadesalingam family (above) shared a hug on the tarmac, and the two girls waved to an emotional crowd

The Nadesalingam family (above) shared a hug on the tarmac, and the two girls waved to an emotional crowd

The former Coalition government tried to deport the family on a commercial flight from Melbourne to Sri Lanka in 2019, but an 11th hour court injunction order the plane land in Darwin.

The four were then 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.

His change-of-heart came after Tharnicaa was medically evacuated with a suspected blood infection.

Following the change of government in May, interim Home Affairs Minister Jim Chalmers gave the family permission to return to Biloela on bridging visas.

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