Biloela asylum seeker mum 'in tears'
"I AM, you are, we are Australian."
These were the lyrics that bellowed from almost 100 people declaring their support for Tamil asylum seekers Nades and Priya and their Australian born 10-month-old and two-year-old daughters.
The supporters rallied in Melbourne ahead of the first court hearing for a decision that could change the family's lives.
Since early March the Biloela family has been held in a Melbourne detention centre, accused of not meeting Australia's protection obligations.
Mum Priya, was in tears and surrounded by guards during the Federal Court proceedings, as her lawyers and the Department of Immigration disputed if the family should be allowed to stay in Australia.
Tamil Refugee Council spokesperson Aran Mylvaganam said Priya struggled through the two-hour hearing as the only family member allowed to leave detention to attend.
"She came to court and she was in tears," he said. "Halfway through you could see the lawyer rush to Priya to give her a box of tissues."
Friend and Biloela resident Angela Fredericks, who organised today's rally, is holding on to hope the family will be allowed back to the Central Queensland town.
She said almost 100 people stood alongside her to show their support, some holding signs with cockatoos, which is what the word Biloela means in the Aboriginal language. A message from Priya was read out to the supporters before they sang We Are Australian.
"Her words about feeling safe here and wanting to have a safe place for her children to grow up were just so touching," she said.
Ms Fredericks, a Biloela support worker, said it was difficult to watch Priya and Nades' battle unfold in court after growing close with them during the past four years.
"I tried to give her a quick hug afterwards and the guards grabbed her and pulled her away," she said.
Ms Fredericks met with the family of four on Tuesday ahead of the hearing.
"It was bitter sweet because it was so wonderful to see them but it was so horrible seeing them there. It's like a prison," she said. "To see the little girls was amazing, but again, I could see the impact being in detention has had on them."
Mr Mylvaganam said Priya and Nades' lawyers argued the case, including some evidence, was not handled properly by the Immigration Department. He said it could take six weeks for the judge to reach a decision.
"Every case is unique and it's very hard to predict if the family has a good chance," he said.
"We're just hoping the public support around this case and the fact that Nades and Priya married in Australia and had their two daughters here will be taken into consideration."
It's understood Priya and Nades came to Australia separately in 2012 and 2013 following Sri Lanka's civil war and married in 2014.
The Department of Immigration declined to comment as the matter is still beyond the courts.