From Sri Lanka to Biloela, to Perth and back: A timeline of the Nadesalingam family’s journey

On Wednesday, Australia watched as the Nadesalingam family began their journey home to Biloela after being granted from the Labor government.
The decision comes after years of public legal battles, advocacy, and detention following their removal from the central Queensland town they had made their home.

The Tamil asylum seeker family, also known as the Murugappans, said they would face persecution as Tamils if deported to Sri Lanka.

But the previous federal government said they did not meet refugee requirements.
Over the past five years, the family has become arguably the most high-profile asylum seeker case in Australia.

Here’s how we got to this point.


2012: Nades arrives on Christmas Island

In 2012, Nadesalingam Murugappan – known as Nades – arrived via a people smuggler boat.

Nades had previous links with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which the family and their advocates say would make him “almost certain” to face persecution if he returned to Sri Lanka.

Nades Murugappan holding his daughter Kopika

Nades arrived in Australia 10 years ago Source: SBS News / , Supplied/HometoBilo

2013: Priya arrives in Australia

Kokilapathmapriya – known as Priya – arrived in the Cocos Islands on a people smuggler boat.

Priya had left Sri Lanka in 2001 to go to India. She said she had fled due to the war and her family being targeted. In 2013, she travelled to Australia where she met Nades.


2014-2017: The couple move to Biloela

In 2014, Nades and Priya married while both on temporary bridging visas and settled in Biloela.
Nades began working in the local abattoir and the couple became established in the Biloela community
In 2015, Nades and Priya’s first daughter Kopikaa was born.

In 2017, Tharnicaa was born.

Tharnicaa, Nades, Priya and Kopika Murugappan (L-R).

Tharnicaa, Nades, Priya and Kopika Murugappan (L-R). Credit: Supplied / Stephanie Coombes

2018: Family removed from Biloela

On Monday 5 March, Australian Border Force officials — accompanied by police and Serco private security guards — arrived at the family’s home in Biloela and removed them due to Priya’s visa expiring.

They were then moved to a Melbourne detention centre, and later Christmas Island, and were issued with deportation notices in June after the federal government ruled they could not stay.


The Biloela community and numerous social justice advocacy groups , with more than 190,000 Australians signing a petition urging then-Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to return the family to Biloela.

Their deportation was put on hold while their appeal was being considered, which was rejected by the Federal Court in December. The judge ordered the family to be deported, but not before February 2019.

Tamil Biloela family

The Murugappan couple Priya and Nadesalingam with their Australian-born children Kopika and Tharunicaa. Source: Supplied

Throughout the appeals, the department said they consistently found the family’s case did not meet Australia’s protection obligations.

2019: Family almost deported to Sri Lanka

In May 2019, the High Court denied the family’s final appeal to stay. Friends from Biloela travelled to Sydney to deliver the petition to then-federal Immigration Minister David Coleman.


In August, the family was put on a plane to be deported. However, at the last minute their deportation was blocked due to an injunction lodged by solicitors. The injunction was granted as Tharnicaa had not yet been assessed for a protection visa, and therefore could not be deported.

The plane landed in Darwin, and the family were transported back to Christmas Island.

2020: Family reside on Christmas Island as legal fight continues

In 2020, while Tharnicaa’s case and visa were being assessed, the family were detained on Christmas Island.
In April, the Federal Court ruled that the family’s youngest daughter when the government considered lifting a bar preventing her from applying for a visa.
During the coronavirus pandemic, and exposure to COVID-19 from guards.

2021: Family moved to Perth

In 2021, Tharnicaa had to be evacuated from Christmas Island forlood infection.
Priya, Nades and seven-year-old daughter Kopika were granted bridging visas allowing them to remain in the country, but Tharnicaa was not, forcing the family to

2022: New government announces bridging visas and family travels home to Biloela

In the lead-up to the 2022 federal election, the Labor Party made the promise that if elected, they would allow the family to return to Biloela.

On 27 May, new treasurer Jim Chalmers — who was interim home affairs minister at the time — announced he had used ministerial intervention powers to enable the family to return to Biloela, where they can reside lawfully in the community on bridging visas ahead of the resolution of their immigration status.


to help the family “get back on their feet” when they arrive home, and an interstate investor reportedly offered for the family to live in his Biloela house rent-free for six months.

On Wednesday 8 June they left Perth, and arrived in Brisbane later that day.

Two young girls holding plush cockatoos. One is speaking in front of a microphone.

Kopika and Tharnicaa, the daughters of Priya and Nades Nadesalingam. The family are returning to the regional town of Biloela in Queensland after more than 1,500 days in detention. Source: AAP / Richard Wainright

Addressing the media in Perth, Priya said she was grateful for the hospitality her family received during their time in Perth.

“I’m very grateful to the Perth Children’s Hospital, they helped my family lots,” Priya said.

“Me and my family are very happy to start our journey back to my community in Bilo.”

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