The Town Of Biloela Used Last Night’s ‘Q&A’ To Demand Dutton Return An Asylum Seeker Family

"Our town loved this little family, and we want them, we want them to come home."


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People often use their five seconds of fame on Q&A to make absolute fools of themselves, but last night a bunch of residents from the Queensland town of Biloela used their moment for a pretty good cause.

They travelled down to demand that Peter Dutton return a Tamil family who have been detained by the Border Force since they were taken in a dawn raid in early March, saying the Biloela community is united in the opinion that the family belongs there.

Nadesalingam and his wife Priya, as well as their two Australian-born children, were taken into detention in March over a visa that had expired by a single day. While the government has determined that the family does not meet the requirements for protection in Australia, they face an uncertain future if they are deported to Sri Lanka, where there are many examples of Tamils facing persecution and violence.

On Q&A last night, Biloela resident Marie noted that the family has been held in a Melbourne detention centre for 84 days now, and that the town has been calling for their return that entire time.

“Our town loved this little family, and we want them, we want them to come home,” she said. “I personally have travelled, along with other people from Biloela, the 1800km to Melbourne to visit and support this family in whatever way we can.”

She described the steps that Biloela residents have taken to try to get this family returned, including asking Peter Dutton to use his discretion to allow them to stay. A petition started by the Biloela community has so far amassed over 100,000 signatures, all calling for the family to be returned.

“I guess my question tonight is, what more could we do to ensure that Priya, Nades, Kopica and Tharunicaa return home to Biloela?”

Dutton himself wasn’t on last night’s panel, so the question was initially thrown to Liberal Senator Jim Molan, who said he wasn’t familiar with the details of the case, and that Dutton must have a good reason for his decision.

“I happen to have great faith in Peter Dutton — you put your case to him and let’s see what he does,” he said. But that wasn’t enough for the Biloela residents.

“The work that they’re doing is valued. They’re valued and contributing members of our community. We have presented the case to Mr. Dutton, and we’re not really getting a response.”

Another Biloela resident, Margot, added that “having been in Biloela and allowed to live a free and safe life, and now being taken with their children and placed in detention, to me that’s just another form of passive torture that these people have to live with every day.”

As panellist Father Rod Bower pointed out, “one of the things we do know is that their mental health will now be affected, their mental health will start to deteriorate — and especially for the kids. These kids have now, for 84 days, been in prison.”

“How did we get to this place? How did we get to a point where we’re raiding family homes at five in the morning in the most terrifying way, separating a family, dragging them off into detention?”

The only person who can answer that one is Peter Dutton, but Jim Molan promised on the panel he’d have a word to him about it. We’re not holding our breath, but maybe he’ll see that powerful Biloela community response and have a long, hard think about what he’s doing.

You can watch the question from last night’s episode below: