He Was Once A State Indigenous Youth Of The Year. Now He's In Immigration Detention.

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Exclusive: More than a week after the High Court said Indigenous people cannot be deported from Australia, Torres Strait Islander man Billy Hohoi remains in immigration detention.

A Torres Strait Islander man who once won an Indigenous youth of the year award remains in immigration detention, despite a landmark decision from Australia's highest court last week that Indigenous people cannot be detained or deported.

Billy Hohoi, 34, has been held in Sydney's Villawood Immigration Detention Centre since April 2018, and says his Torres Strait Islander identity means he should not be deported to Papua New Guinea. The High Court ruled last Tuesday that the special cultural, historical and spiritual connection Indigenous people — including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people — have with Australia's land means that they cannot be treated as "aliens" under the Constitution. That means they cannot be deported or held in immigration detention, even if they are not Australian citizens. Alexandra Hohoi, Billy's younger sister, told BuzzFeed News being Torres Strait Islander was a "huge, huge part" of the family's identity. As a teenager Billy played for the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team, which fosters Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in rugby, including in a warm-up game for an Australia-All Blacks clash. In 2002 Billy's sporting achievements earned him the Australian Capital Territory's Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Youth of the Year award. But in 2018 he was taken to Villawood detention centre after serving a prison sentence, and was told by the Australian government he would be deported to Papua New Guinea, and would likely not be allowed to enter Australia again. Billy's lawyers at Victoria Legal Aid wrote to the Department of Home Affairs to seek his release on the day the High Court announced its decision. The department replied that his case was "being progressed". Throughout his detention Billy has argued that he is Indigenous and should be allowed to stay in Australia, where he has lived since he was seven. Billy's father, Tom Hohoi, was born on Mer (or Murray) Island in the Torres Strait,…
Hannah Ryan
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