Tamil Love Stories: Priya & Nades's Love Carried them Through 1,558 Days in Detention as Refugees in Australia
Lovingly known as the ‘Biloela Family,’ they united Australians in their fight to stay, while highlighting the unfavorable laws/treatment of refugees.
Parthiban Manoharan
Tech Professional
Toronto, Canada
Post image

To celebrate the month of love, TC and myTamilDate are thrilled to kick off our 'Tamil Love Stories' series. Get ready to be inspired by the incredible journeys of couples from all corners of the diaspora. These stories are sure to awaken the hopeless romantic in all of us!

Priya and Nades, along with their children Kopika and Tharnicaa, were refugees from Sri Lanka who spent 1,558 days in detention, including 2 years in the infamous Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre in Australia. Widely and lovingly known as the ‘Biloela Family,’ they united the nation in their fight to stay, while highlighting the unfavorable laws and treatment of refugees in Australia. 

Priya and Nades discuss with TC the elements of their relationship that withstood some of the most difficult challenges one can face.

For more in depth coverage of their arduous immigration battle, please checkout the podcast by fellow TC creator Thinesh Thillai and Jay, You Have Been Told a Lie

How did you both meet?

Priya: Our story is quite fascinating. I came to Australia in April, 2013. We met that year when Nades and I were 35-years-old at that time; he's 6 months younger than me. 

I only met Nades in-person for the first time on the kalayana medai. Nades was working in Biloela, Queensland while I was in Blacktown (Sydney area) at that time. My good friend Chandra introduced Nades as part of the arranged marriage process. At first I brushed it off saying that I am not interested in getting married. But my mother called me mentioning how worried she is that I am living alone and insisted that I should say yes. I agreed. 

Subsequently we spoke with each other over the phone for 25 days. I had a small old phone which wasn’t conducive to viewing photos, hence I never saw how he looked properly.  Nades took the responsibility of planning and executing every single aspect of our wedding. From the wedding cards, my koorai saree, rings, metti, decor and food, everything was done by him. For my wedding ring, Nades had asked me to visit a jewelry store in Sydney to choose my preferred design and provide my measurements. However, upon arrival, the store claimed that Nades had already finalized everything, leaving me with no choice but to provide my measurements without having the opportunity to select my ring.

Our wedding was set for September 7th 2014. I finally got to meet Nades in person at the altar! That’s when I saw how tall he was, his skin color, his looks! I was so nervous and my fingers were trembling when I was bringing in the garland.  It was such a beautiful wedding and it felt very special. We subsequently had a photo shoot 3 days later and I am just getting to know him in person, all our photos look awkward and there is not a single romantic photo from that shoot!


In those 25 days of talking to each other over the phone, what did you like about each other?

Priya: Nades was very open and truthful about his visa situation. My visa process hadn't started yet while Nades’s process was in the high court for the final deliberation. He had no expectations from me. He spent his savings on our wedding and was understanding of my situation. I told him that I promise to love him, be understanding and be a good partner in this journey. We also talked about our age, where I was 6 months older than him. He brushed it off mentioning that “I like you and I am taking this decision. Don’t worry what the world says about this.”

Nades: We were absolutely honest about everything in our conversations. I always make decisions based on what my heart says. And my heart said that this was the right thing to do and things will work out for the best.


In your 4 years in Biloela, before you were taken into detention in 2018, what did you learn about each other?

Priya: When we spoke over the phone, there was a sense of hope. But the ability to be strong and withstand everything that I faced in the years that came later, it was all because of the positive thoughts and self-determination that Nades shared with me. If there is a disagreement he doesn’t dwell on it and simply lets it go. He approaches life with the mantra that everything is possible. That rubs off on you.

Even with your immigration woes, you still had quite a beautiful and happy family life. But things changed and you were taken into detention and spent 1,558 days in confinement. Those 1,558 days were immensely challenging. How did you motivate each other during this difficult time?

Priya: It was a painful time but we had 2 children. But I too did not have a stable mind with everything that was going on. So Nades had 3 children, including myself, to look after. For the majority of the time in detention, I was pretty much in a sad state. Nades is the one who kept encouraging me, motivating me, and asking me to not react to situations that weren’t in our control. He was hopeful and kept reassuring his support to me. 

I remember a moment when Nades brought me tea and I simply knocked it off his hand. He calmly pacified me, told me to listen to some music. He would mention that “look at everyone who’s fighting for us outside, we should not give up. Get back on your feet!

Similarly I motivated him too when he was feeling low. You have to understand that we had to play many roles during this time. Be a friend to each other, parents to our kids, confidante etc. We weren’t  intimate or romantic as the situation was such. Yet with the 24 hour surveillance, we still made efforts to be a good partner to each other simply with the love that we shared. Our motivation ultimately came from our kids, and the hope of providing them with a better future. This is what carries on 'til today.


Kopikaa and Tharnica were around 3 and 1 years old when all of you were taken into detention. While they may not know the severity of what was going on, certain things may have impacted them. How were you able to provide some sort of “normalcy” to them during this time?

Priya: More than me, Nades played a big role in this. He continued to play, write, and color with them. Other than the time where we would discuss legal matters, he spent every other breath and energy with Kopikaa and Tharnica. He ensured that his children weren’t impacted by the stress of the environment and worked hard so that they were healthy children, both physically and mentally, with whatever means and restrictions we had. And it was an immense struggle but we fought for our rights so that our kids got what they deserved. This credit completely goes to Nades.

Once you were released from detention and once all the media attention subsided, what was the first thing you did as a family?

Priya: After 1558 days of detention, all we wanted was happiness and safety and to be able to regain what we had lost over those years. To live in freedom and peace as a family. Just like a butterfly!


Source: Marie Claire Australia

Now that you are rebuilding your life in Biloela, what are your dreams?

Priya: Nades wants to be an entrepreneur, run his own business. Good education to my children. But most importantly, as people opened their hearts and helped us during our difficult endeavors, I want my children and myself to be able to do the same for others who come here as refugees in search of a safe and peaceful life.

When Kopikaa and Tharnica reach the age where they are looking for love and relationships, what advice would you give them?

Priya: They should find partners that respect them as women and leave aside their egos. Equal partners in life. Beyond education and status, there should be honesty and integrity in character and an appreciation of family and family values.


A parallel thread that runs in your life story is your love for the people and town of Biloela. What impact has this affection that the town has showered towards you helped in building your family?

Priya: In a place where we have no extended family, Biloela has stepped into those shoes, opening their hearts and doors to us. A gift from god. And this love carries through from them to us to our kids and creates a healthy and happy atmosphere. The sense of community, but a community who’s just like family makes such a big difference.

What advice would you give to people who are in search of love and would want to lead a happy marriage life today?

Priya: Physical appearances should not be given preference. If you look at Nades and myself, we are very different physically. But we both believed in each other and that belief carried us through whatever we endured. And our love for each other withstood everything else. Respect towards each other, respect for the difference in our thoughts and opinions and leaving our egos aside is what we practice and what others should look for in choosing partners. 

We had a late marriage in comparison at 35. It is quite hurtful when society questions for not being married. Age is just a number and we found that love and respect later than others but we feel completely content and fulfilled. I agree that there may be physical challenges associated with having a baby when you are much older. But that is something beyond our control and we shouldn't worry about. Nades is everything for me, even above god. It was a late marriage but it was God's gift!

Nades: I would like to add that, at a younger age you may waver in thought and decision making skills. As you grow older and experience more life, you are seasoned, clear, confident and decisive. You can independently make sound judgment calls. 

One needs to understand that there will always be challenges and disagreements. But in these heated moments, one of you should be calm, let that moment settle down and address it when there is clarity in thought. That would make a happy marriage. 

Priya has collaborated with Rebkah Holt in writing her memoir, ‘Home to Biloela’, taking us through the dramatic journey from Sri Lanka to making her home in Biloela, Queensland, Australia. Book is available at Amazon and Allen & Unwin publishers.

Photo Credit:  Frances Andrijich

Photo Credit:  Frances Andrijich

Parthiban Manoharan
Tech Professional
Toronto,  Canada
I am a tech professional interested in Film, Music, Photography and Culture. Love conne...
I am a tech professional interested in Film, Music, Photography and Culture. Love conne...
You may also enjoy these
Ask Therapist Tharshiga: A 24-Year-Old Tamil Woman's Journey to Dating, Anxiety, and Parental Expectations
I have tons of friends but have never gone on a date and I'm not quite sure I know how to.I have a lot of anxiety when I think about the whole thing..
Tamil Love Stories: Blind Couple Jothy & Bhrapakaran's Success a Result of Refusing to Allow Challenges to Dictate their Lives
Jothy & Bhrapakaran, both identifying as blind, offer us a profound glimpse into their journey of love and navigating through unique challenges.
Tamil Love Stories: Maalavika Sundar & Kashyap Raghuraman
We met in May 2021, and then around June, he asked me out. I refused, and we immediately set the wedding date and got married in November 2021.

Jenani & Nav

met on myTamilDate
Join for Free Today
Madhu & Nia
met on myTamilDate
Join for Free Today
Network with TamilChangemakers
Videos Podcasts