Happy homecoming

Image: courtesy ABC News: Cason Ho
David Ahern

David Ahern

David is the editor of The Majellan

Let’s be honest. There hasn’t been much good news about lately. The war in Ukraine, rising interest rates, increased power prices, the cost of living ... the negative news seem to be on endless rotation.

However, there was one bright spot – the story about the Murugappan family’s arrival back in the small Queensland town of Biloela.

Labor had pledged to send the Tamil family back to Biloela and end their four years of detention if they were elected. That promise was kept last week.

The asylum seeker family had been desperate to stay in Australia because they feared persecution in Sri Lanka. Priya and Nades came to Australia separately by boat in 2012 and 2013. The couple married and settled in Biloela, where they lived and worked for about three years on temporary bridging visas and both their daughters were born in Australia.

But authorities raided their Biloela home in the middle of the night in 2018 and bustled them off to Christmas Island and then to Perth a year ago.

Telling was this comment from Priya before arriving in Biloela. “Me and my family are very happy to start our journey back to my community in Bilo.”

My community” says it all.

The anguish of the past four years was behind them when Priya, Nades and daughters Kopica and Tharnicaa were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd last week. The welcome home would have made a rock star blush as many of the town’s almost 6,000 residents gathered to greet them.

There was more icing on the cake on Sunday, no pun intended, with more celebrations amongst family and friends for Tharnicaa’s fifth birthday.

The kind people of Biloela are deserving of much admiration and praise for their perseverance and the way they have rallied around the family. They saw something in the Murugappans from the start, appreciating their commitment and willingness to immerse themselves in the life of the town.

Justice has been done but the family should never have been put through four years of stress and uncertainty. Apart from the moral implications, the cost to the taxpayer to keep this family in detention ran into the millions of dollars. It was a serious waste of our money.

The family’s long-term future is still uncertain as they are on bridging visas while their immigration case is resolved in court.

It is fitting next week is World Refugee Week. The release of the Murugappan family is a timely reminder of the positive impact refugees and asylum seekers can have on our communities.

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