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

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

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

It was the first time in four years they’d set foot in the city in central Queensland since being locked up 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 return.

Priya Nadesalingam (center) fell to her knees overcome with emotion and kissed the ground after she and her family landed in Australia

Priya Nadesalingam (center) fell to her knees overcome with emotion and kissed the ground after she and her family landed in Australia

The family hugged on the tarmac and the two girls waved to an emotional crowd that described their return as a “dream come true.”

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

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

At that point, authorities determined that they no longer met Australia’s refugee requirements.

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

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

Nades and Priya Nadesalingam hugging friends at Thangool Airport near their small hometown of Biloela in central Queensland

Nades and Priya Nadesalingam hugging friends at Thangool Airport near their small hometown 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 sent to Australian politicians.

However, the Albanian government was quick to allow the family to finally return home after it reversed the coalition’s policies days after winning the election.

Mrs. Nadesalingam held a stuffed cockatoo, the bird the town is named after, as she waited 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

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

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

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

“Thank you so much,” she later told reporters.

“Me and my family are very happy to be starting our journey back to my community Bilo.

“My community and Australian people, my family, are helping – thank you to everyone in the Bilo community.

“I’m starting a new life… so happy, thank you.”

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

“To finally be able to see them walk into Biloela – it’s like a dream come true,” local Marie Austin told the ABC

Family friend Bronwyn Dendle said she played the emotional reunion “so many times” in her mind 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 out of detention, and Mrs. Dendle said she’s delighted to be giving her the party she deserves.

“We’re going to have a birthday party in the park, that’s what the locals of Bilo do. She specifically asked for a pink party, so she’ll have a pink party,” she said.

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

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

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

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

The former coalition government attempted to deport the family on a commercial flight from Melbourne to Sri Lanka in 2019, but an 11-hour court order ordered the plane to land in Darwin.

The four were then held in the Christmas Island detention center for two years, until then-immigration secretary Alex Hawke took them to community detention in Perth in mid-2021.

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

After the change of government in May, the interim Home Secretary Jim Chalmers allowed the family to return to Biloela on bridging visas.

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