Home » Tharnicaa Nadesalingam celebrates first birthday out of detention with a pink-themed party and a koala cake

Tharnicaa Nadesalingam celebrates first birthday out of detention with a pink-themed party and a koala cake

Tharnicaa has celebrated every birthday in immigration detention. Now, at five, she is free.On a chilly Sunday morning, three dozen family friends braved the cold at Biloela’s local Lions Park to celebrate Tharnicaa Nadesalingam's fifth birthday - her first ever out of detention.

On Tharnicaa’s special request, the theme for her party was pink - and it had to feature a koala cake. Loved ones gathered around, singing happy birthday to Tharnicaa and her older sister Kopika, who wore matching pink dresses - true to the party’s theme.


The festive scene was a welcome contrast to last year when little Tharnicaa was forced to spend her birthday in Perth Children's Hospital, where she was being treated for sepsis caused by untreated pneumonia.On the cake read, ‘Happy Birthday Tharni and Kopi’, including seven-year-old Kopika who spent more than half of her birthdays in detention, too."We had a lovely big slab cake that was for both girls because we missed four years of birthdays, for Kopika as well," social worker and Biloela local Angela Fredericks said.

"Then we had a beautiful pink cake that had a little koala on top as well. That was at Tharnicaa's request."

A girl getting her face paintedA girl getting her face painted

Last year, Tharnicaa spent her birthday in a Perth hospital where she was being treated for sepsis. Source: SBS News / Rayane Tamer

Family and friends played a series of games, filled with laughter and pink, a sign of normalcy returned to the Nadesalingams as they settle back in at Biloela this weekend.

It marks the end of a four-year campaign to have the family returned to Biloela after the Morrison government attempted to deport them to Sri Lanka.


Balloons, cake and overwhelming joy set the tone as locals gathered at a nearby park to celebrate after "Tharni" and her family returned home to Biloela on the weekend. Source: SBS News / Kulasegaram Sanchayan

Priya and Nades arrived by boat in Australia separately as asylum seekers fleeing Sri Lanka, before they met and had their two daughters.
Anne Smith, a local teacher, helped organise the birthday celebration."This is the kids' first time experiencing a true Aussie birthday party," Ms Smith told SBS News."We've gone all out today to make it really special."The community support has been overwhelming. I went to the bakery today to collect the cake and I think all of Biloela was there. "There's such a sense of happiness that they're home."I loved it when Priya spoke yesterday, saying that now she's home, she just wants to serve the community. And that's what they were both like before they were snatched away.

"They did so much volunteer work."

In March 2018, the federal government attempted to deport them before an 11th-hour court injunction saw the four held at the Christmas Island detention centre for two years.

They were then moved to community detention in Perth before the newly minted Labor government intervened when they came into power last month and gave them bridging visas.


Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the episode was something "Australia can't be proud of".

"We are a better country than that, we can do better than that," he said.

The family is seeking permanent residency with Mr Albanese seeing "no impediment" to it being granted.


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