Daughters of the Tamil family enjoy their first day of school in Queensland after two years incarcerated on Christmas Island
- Girls from Tamil asylum seekers family all smile on their first day of school
- A family friend tweets ‘they loved it’ while the girls look cute in blue uniforms
- Nadesalingams resettles in Biloela after dramatic four-year battle to stay
- After being denied refugee status, they spent two years on Christmas Island
It could be all other Australian school children, but the beaming smiles on the faces of Kopika and Tharnicaa Nadesalingam reflected a special joy in attending their first day of school.
It’s the kind of normality that is far removed from the two years they spent with their parents Nades and Priya as the sole residents of the reopened Christmas Island detention center.
Tharnicaa, 5, holds onto the straps of her oversized pink satchel, which comes with a toy pink unicorn, while Kopika, 7, stands upright and shows off her impressive hair braids in a photo tweeted by Seven News journalist Ebony Abblitt .
Tharnicaa, five, and Nadesalingam, seven, all smile on their first day of school in the Queensland town of Biloela, another sign that the family is beginning to lead a normal life after their high-profile four-year battle against deportation to Sri Lanka
“And they loved it,” replied an account from a family friend and local social worker Angela Fredericks, who has led the fight to keep the family.
They may have many years of schooling ahead of them if their mother gets her way.
“I hope they go to college, they go to university … I hope their future is [to become] doctors,” she said the guard after the family returned to Biloela, the outback town in Queensland.
The photo is another sign that the Nadesalingams are beginning to enjoy a quintessential Australian family life that seemed out of reach for so long when they and their lawyers waged a protracted and dramatic four-year battle to stay in the country.
Tharnicaa’s fifth birthday welcomed the family back to Biloela and here she is seen adjusting her outfit, watched by her parents Priya (left) and Nades (right)
The girls attend a private Christian denominational school in Biloela after the Albanian government grants their parents Nades and Priya a bridging visa.
They were welcomed to the outback town of Biloela in Queensland on June 12 with a fifth birthday party for Tharnicaa.
On that occasion, the girls were dressed in pink dresses and wearing tiaras as they cut huge pink-glazed cakes, one with a koala on top symbolizing their hopes of staying permanently in Australia.
This 2019 photo shows the Nadesalingams thanking their supporters after being sent to the Christmas Island detention center where they fought deportation for two years
Ms Fredericks said the family became “more and more relaxed every day” and that they were “so incredibly grateful” for the love and support they received from the Biloela community.
Priya and Nades met in Australia after arriving in Australia by boat as asylum seekers fleeing the civil war in Sri Lanka and they married in 2014.
Both their girls were born in Australia.
They were granted a transition visa and settled in Biloela but were denied refugee status and in March 2018 the Morrison government attempted to deport them and they were sent to a detention center in Melbourne.
This sparked a high-profile campaign to keep the family in Australia with a series of legal battles that often polarized public opinion.
An 11-hour court order saw the plane that was supposed to take them back to Sri Lanka ordered to land in Darwin in August 2019.
The family then spent two years in the detention center on Christmas Island, which was reopened just for them.
Tharnicaa was forced to spend her fourth birthday at Perth Children’s Hospital after being medically evacuated from Christmas Island to be treated for sepsis caused by untreated pneumonia.
They were then transferred to community detention in Perth before being granted bridging visas by the Albanian government in one of its first acts to come to power.
The family is seeking permanent residency, and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese sees “no barrier” to getting it.
Earlier this month, conservative commentator Peta Credlin said in an opinion column that the family should have returned to Sri Lanka after losing a Supreme Court deportation case, and that staying in Australia would encourage more arrivals from countries like Sri Lanka.