Biloela campaign impossible to ignore
A CAMPAIGN that grew too big to ignore for the safe return of a Biloela family has forced Australia to think differently about the value asylum seekers bring to regional communities.
Led by Biloela woman Angela Fredericks, Home to Bilo has doggedly fought for the release of detained Sri Lankans Priya and Nades and their daughters Kopika, 5, and Tharunicaa, 2.
The family was detained by border force in a dawn raid on March 5, 2018, following a visa dispute.
Since then, more than 320,000 people have rallied behind the family, almost 60 times the population of the Central Queensland town.
More than two years on the family is detained at Christmas Island, awaiting a result from court appeals.
Ms Fredericks said she knew people were beginning to listen when the Facebook group reached 7000 followers, surpassing Biloela’s population.
Not long after she was receiving interview requests from BBC in London.
It led to conservative voices including Alan Jones and Barnaby Joyce expressing sympathy for the family’s ongoing detainment.
Ms Fredericks said coverage within local media, including this newspaper, had a massive impact on the campaign.
“It was very much about taking what was a community issue and having it thrown into a national focus,” Ms Fredericks said.
“It’s been a baptism of fire, going from chatting with a local journalist to having to deal with producers and photographers.
“What it’s done for me is it has made me realise how important journalism is.”
She said the campaign has helped raise vital funds for lawyers who are still fighting for the family in the Federal Court.
“That’s what has allowed us to hire lawyers and keep this going,” she said.
“It’s why so many deserving asylum seekers with very real cases get deported, because they don’t have the funds to fight for what is legally their right.”
The family had a small win in April when the Federal Government had to pay legal costs after the Federal Court ruled the asylum bid for two-year-old Tharunicaa was not “afforded procedural fairness”.
Ms Fredericks said the family and the government have both lodged appeals against parts of the judgement.
Nades and Priya came to Australia separately in 2012 and 2013 following Sri Lanka’s civil war.
They married in 2014 and moved to Biloela, where Nades worked at the meatworks.