Hundreds of people poured into the Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute in a powerful display of solidarity with a Tamil refugee family facing deportation.
A high tea was held for Ballarat Sri Lankan family Neelavannan Paramanathan, his wife Suganthini and their daughters Nivash, 8, Kartie, 6 and Niev, 3 inside the Minerva Room on Sunday afternoon.
The couple fled Sri Lanka in 2008 in the midst of a civil war. They sought asylum in Australia in 2012 before resettling in Ballarat with their daughters in 2013.
To date, there have been no assurances of the family’s safety if they were forced to return to Sri Lanka.
Although the Civil War ended in 2009 a harrowing regime of war crimes in Sri Lanka is still under investigation by the United Nations. Reports of human rights abuses in the country continue with claims of serious mistreatment and torture of refugees who return to the nation.
The family have exhausted all avenues of staying in Australia. A final plea for ministerial intervention was denied by the federal government earlier this year.
Event organiser Kath Morton said the family were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love they had received from the Ballarat community.
She said the family were “kind, generous, lovely people” who valued Ballarat and its people.
“It is really exciting and heartwarming to see such support,” Ms Morton said. “They really are such a beautiful family who offer so much to Ballarat.”
“The next step in the journey is to get an immigration lawyer for the family, which can be extremely expensive, so that’s why we decided to have this event to raise money for them.”
More than $5000 was raised through ticket sales with more donations yet to be counted.
The couple are both active volunteers in the community with Mr Paramanathan recently completing his six month State Emergency Training and Ms Paramanathan volunteering weekly at the Eureka Nursing Home.
Ms Morton said Nivash and Kartie are excelling at Black Hill Primary and are adored by the school community.
She said anyone who knows the family speaks of their gentle and caring nature. All money raised from the event will go directly towards legal costs to fund the family’s case to help them stay in Ballarat.