Following Labor’s victory over the Liberal Party in the 2022 Australian Federal election, all eyes are on party leader and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to ensure he fulfills his pre-election promise of bringing the Murugappan family home to Biloela.
It’s been a four-year fight for the Tamil asylum seekers and the community of residents from Central Queensland, with Labor’s win effectively allowing them to stay permanently in Australia, or as #HomeToBilo campaigner Angela Fredricks describes it, ”20-plus years of trauma falling away as they actually finally processing that they are safe”.
Nades and Priya Murugappan arrived in Australia by boat in 2012 and 2013 respectively after fleeing Sri Lanka in fear of government persecution. The Murugappans have lived in Biloela since 2014, and welcomed two Australian-born daughters, Kopika and Tharnicaa in 2015 and 2017.
In March of 2018, the Australian Border Force forcibly removed them from their home and placed them in immigration detention first in Melbourne, then eventually to Christmas Island, effectively leaving them as displaced residents.
The Murugappans are currently held in a detention center in Perth after a last-minute injunction in 2019 delayed their deportation.
The federal election once again tied the family's future with the outcome. Scott Morrison's Coalition had ruled out allowing the family to stay in Australia, while Labor's Anthony Albanese promised to use ministerial privileges to allow them to return to Biloela on a bridging visa.
Speaking on ABC Radio Brisbane on the Monday after Labor's win at the federal election, Chalmers said he is expecting a briefing regarding the matter this week. “Biloela is a big-hearted, warm, welcoming town and the sooner we can get that beautiful family home to Bilo, the better,” he added.
Home To Bilo campaigners anticipate that the family could arrive back in the community by mid-June, in time to celebrate Pryia and Nades’ youngest daughter Tharnicaa’s 5th birthday.
"She has had every birthday in detention, so it would be amazing for her fifth birthday to actually get to celebrate her freedom...a huge thing for a little five year year old," Fredericks told SBS News.
She shared the news to the Murugappans that they would be returning home on the evening of election night. “To get to that last night was so incredibly special, we’ve never seen their smiles so big, we’ve never seen their faces look so relaxed,” explained Fredericks to The Guardian.
As for Fredericks next move? “I guess our first step is just getting those plane tickets. We just want their feet back here in Bilo.”