A FUNERAL was held yesterday for the eight children killed in the Australian town of Cairns last month.
More than 4,500 people gathered for a memorial at the Cairns Convention Centre in Queensland.
Prime minister Tony Abbott, Queensland premier Campbell Newman and opposition leader Bill Shorten and his state counterpart Annastacia Palaszczuk also attended.
The four girls and four boys, aged between two and 14, were found dead in their Manoora home on 19 December.
The incident shocked the Torres Strait Islander community, with the families of the eight children undertaking a traditional mourning period ahead of the funerals.
The funeral was called Keriba Omasker, which means “our children” in the Torres Strait Islander Erub dialect.
They have requested their children be referred to in a language of their ancestors, an aborigine dialect, and that their images are not broadcast, out of respect for Torres Strait Island and Australian South Sea Islander culture.
Two eulogies were read by the children’s aunts and four chaplains from their schools lit candles and presented them on the dais where eight white coffins were placed.
Abbott and Newman both laid wreaths before the coffins.
Newman said: “I am there in solidarity with everybody concerned and I hope that us all stopping to reflect at the service gives comfort to all those who have been terribly impacted by this appalling tragedy.”
The presence of politicians at the ceremony, during the Queensland election campaign, drew mixed reactions from residents. Simone Stacey, a child safety worker, said it was important provided it was for the right reasons and not “just to show their faces”.
She added:“I guess for the indigenous community, we do need that support.”
Bishop Ned Gabey offered an emotional devotion to the deceased children.
“I have no doubt there was a cry on 19 December, 2014: ‘Is there somebody can help me?’” he said. “Our youth – can somebody hear their cry? Our nation, our generation, our people – can somebody hear their cry?
“There was a cry there at that time. Nobody heard the cry. Nobody listened to what was happening inside, nobody heard the cry. But one person heard the cry. In the interval of time between life and death me look up to heaven and me see something and see Jesus standing in glory.
“I have no doubt on that day there was a standing ovation in heaven to welcome them, eight Omasker children, on that day.”
Shortly before 1pm, eight hearses carrying the children began their journey to the cemetery.
A police escort led the hearses on a slow journey through Cairns as many residents stood on street corners to watch them pass.
The route to the cemetery included a detour past the street where the children died, before they were laid to rest beside each other.
Newman said on Facebook: “The tragic event in Manoora just before Christmas was felt right across Queensland and the nation. No words can take away the pain or ease the sorrow of that loss.”
Plans are under way to demolish the house where the tragedy occurred.
The mother of seven of the children and aunt of the eighth, Raina Thaiday, was charged with their murders last month.