• Thursday Island, Torres Strait (Flickr/CC-BY-2.0)Source: Flickr/CC-BY-2.0
Thousands expected at Tombstone Opening Ceremony at Cairns cemetery for the eight children who tragically lost their lives in 2014. NITV is the only media outlet permitted access to the ceremony at the family's request.
NITV Staff Writers

28 Nov 2018 - 4:34 PM  UPDATED 28 Nov 2018 - 5:23 PM

In December 2014, eight children tragically lost their lives in Cairns. The four girls and four boys, aged between two and 14 years old, are being together referred to as “Keriba Omasker” meaning “Our Children” in the Erub dialect of the Torres Strait Island, their common heritage.

On Saturday 1 December, the community will come together to unveil a tombstone to commemorate the children. The ceremony will be followed by a reception between 5pm to 11.30pm at Cairns Showgrounds, Fred Moule Pavilion.

The Tombstone Opening brings together family and community as a celebration of their  remembrance and their joining of spirits with their ancestors. The community comes together in song, dance, feast and a display of colour and vitality for the lives passed and the unveiling of their headstones. It is an emotional ceremony but a celebratory tradition performed by Torres Strait Islander communities years after a funeral to ‘Open’ or ‘unviel’ the Headstone that permanently represents the respectful memory of a loved one. 

A Tombstone Opening or ‘unveiling’ has nothing to do with exhumation, but refers to the traditional practice that involves the decorated headstone being finally unveiled in a cultural ceremony for family and community to see for the first time.

NITV is the only media outlet permitted access to the ceremony at the family’s request.



Please note: Torres Strait Island & Australian South Sea Island families ask that all media references to their eight children be "Keriba Omasker" (meaning ‘Our Children’, pronounced Kerry-buh Omus-ker, (‘Om’ as in hommus, ‘ker’ as in kerry).

"Keriba Omasker - Our Children" is Meriam Mir, Erub dialect, a language of the eight children's heritage.



  • All footage and stills must be credited to NITV
  • Torres Strait Island & Australian South Sea Island families request that media do not use the term ‘Murray Street Children’ and that all media references to their children be ‘Keriba Omasker’ meaning ‘Our Children’
  • All copyright and other relevant rights to be owned by the family in perpetuity, subject to a 24 hour licence for broadcast media outlets to use for reporting the service.
  • The names of the children have been cleared by the family for media reporting. The names of the children are: Malili Lydianna Margarita Emmakai Glorianna Warria, Vita Angelina Glorrianna Wazanna Thaiday, Shantae Jolee Majorta Warria, La’Torrence Rayden Simeon James Warria, Azaraiah Ellison Reuben Willie, Daniel Stanley Willie, Rodney Jackson Deandre Willie, Patrenella Frances Katalia Willie.
  • Strictly use only images of the children provided here: Keriba Omasker.zip

  • No footage to be uploaded to YouTube



Q: Why is NITV covering this memorial? 

A: The families of the loved ones that have passed away requested that NITV cover this memorial because they would like media coverage to adhere to Torres Strait Islander cultural protocols.

NITV is a channel made by and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures for all Australians. It is are dedicated to providing the public with trustworthy information that maintains and respects the cultural practices of our First Peoples.

Q: What is cultural protocol in regard to names and images of the loved ones that have passed away?

A: There is no single standard cultural mourning protocol amongst Indigenous communities. The appropriate mourning protocol is to be determined on a case-by-case basis in consultation with family members and community as appropriate (The Greater Perspective, 1997). The Torres Strait Island and Australian South Sea Island families of the eight children requested that any media reference to the children be “Keriba Omasker”, meaning ‘Our Children’.

In this instance, names and images of the children have been provided for use.

Q: What is the protocol in terms of referencing the children’s mother?

A: The families have asked that this day be about celebrating the children and their lives. The mother will not be attendance for the Tombstone Opening.

Q: What ethical standards should media follow when reporting on stories that involve children?

A: UNICEF has developed principles to assist journalists cover issues involving children in an age-appropriate and sensitive manner. The guidelines were developed to support ethical reporting: Serving the public interest without compromising the rights of children.

Q: Why are there protocols in place during the coverage?

A: Cultural protocols are in place to ensure that the public respect the wishes of the family and community of their loved ones that have passed away. Further resources are available:



The Greater Perspective and Supplementary Guidelines – Indigenous Protocols

SBS was an industry leader releasing The Greater Perspective: Protocols and Guidelines for the Production of Film and Television on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities in 1990 written by Uncle Lester Bostock OAM. These Protocols outline key principles of respect and consultation for production of content related to Indigenous matters.

In 2018, SBS created further guidelines as a practical companion to the existing protocols created by Lester Bostock, with the aim of assisting content makers to reach and set a best practice standard on a range of content platforms – today and into the future.

Reporting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and issues

Media Diversity Australia, in partnership with the National Congress of Australia’s First People and with the support of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation have prepared this free guide. It’s designed to assist journalists navigate issues from appropriate terminology and visiting sacred sites, to reporting on deceased Indigenous people.


Resources for media reporting on mental illness:

The 2nd Edition of Working Together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Wellbeing Principles and Practice (eds Pat Dudgeon, Helen Milroy and Roz Walker). See Mental Illness, Chapter 7.



The family and Cairns community would also like to ensure that helplines are made available as much as possible for the community:


All information and photography requests should be directed to Viktoria Balanzategui, Senior Communications Specialist, NITV – 0429 625 967 by Friday 30 November.

A media release and images from the Tombstone Opening will be distributed to media who request further information on Saturday 1 December following the ceremony.

All requests for vision of the Tombstone Opening for major broadcasters should be directed to SBS Master Control Room Deluxe playout services as per usual new exchange processes. Please send expressions of interest for vision to Viktoria Balanzategui, Senior Communications Specialist, NITV – 0429 625 967 by Friday 30 November.

NITV News will be covering Keriba Omasker tombstone opening this weekend with our bulletin Saturday, 1 December 7.30pm and will be repeated on Sunday, 2 December 7.25pm on NITV (Ch. 34).