Email from Kristina KenneallyAs I sat with Tharunicaa, age 3, and Kopika, age 5, in the Christmas Island Recreation Centre crèche, I thought these two little girls are like so many other children I have met in visits to childcare centres.
They showed me their drawings of rainbows, told me they can spell their own names, and that their birthdays are coming up. They are adorable, bright and engaging.
Their parents Nades and Priya are also like most other parents I usually meet at childcare centres.
Priya hugs me immediately. She is both smiling and teary. Nades is keen to make sure I have a bottle of water and a comfortable chair.
Australians have seen so many pictures of this family, but rarely ever heard directly from them. It felt unreal to be able to sit and talk with them.
Nades, Priya and their two little girls are the Biloela family.
The family’s support in Australia is broad, led by the Biloela community and its #HomeToBilo campaign. The family’s support is also bi-partisan with senior figures from both Labor and the Coalition – most recently Malcolm Turnbull – backing calls to let them stay.
Celebrities from Alan Jones to Michael Caton support them.
The Australian Government has spent $50m detaining and trying to deport the family. The $50m cost to taxpayers alone would be enough for new Home Affairs minister Karen Andrews to justify using her discretion to end this expensive exercise.
We need to keep the pressure on Karen Andrews to end their detention now.
This tired 8 year old Morrison Government will say that Australia needs strong border control. I agree, absolutely.
We can be strong on borders without losing our collective national soul.
Right now international borders are closed due to Covid. Australia’s refugee intake is almost zero. After nearly four years and $50m, it is difficult to see how keeping this family in detention serves any purpose at all, except to take a terrible toll on this family of four who are wanted and loved by the Biloela community.
It is time to let these two lovely little Australian-born girls and their parents to go home to Biloela.
So many Australians support the #HometoBilo campaign. This sorry situation can be fixed with the stroke of a ministerial pen.
Labor calls on new Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews to look at this case with fresh eyes, and make a decision to allow the family to come home to the regional community in Queensland that loves and wants them back.
All people in Australia, including Kopika and Tharunicaa who were born in Queensland, deserve a government that is on their side.