The Torres Strait Island Regional Council Mayor released a statement Monday about cultural protocols respecting the eight children who were found dead in far north Queensland in the city of Cairns earlier that day.
"The Torres Strait Region, along with Cairns, Queensland and the national community, is deeply shocked and saddened by the news on Friday 19 December regarding the tragic loss of innocent life in Cairns," said Council Mayor Frederick Gela.
"During this festive season, whilst in the warm embrace of our families and friends, our thoughts and prayers will also be with the family and friends of those tragically lost."
"Through deepest respect for cultural protocol and those affected by this tragedy, Council shall not be providing further comment with respect to the tragedy, but shall instead divert all of its attention and effort to continuing to support family and friends grieving at this time."
The council also sent out a statement concerning cultural protocols on Friday.
Magistrate Alan Comans rejected on Monday a request from Aboriginal and Torres Strait and Islander Legal Service lawyer Steven MacFarlane to move the next hearing for the mother accused of murdering eight children to the Mental Health Court.
Police announced a 37-year-old woman had been charged with eight counts of murder at Cairns Base Hospital at 3.00pm on Sunday. "She has been remanded in custody, she is currently under police guard," said Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar. He added that police intended to oppose bail because it was a murder charge.
The mother was admitted to hospital on Friday after she was found with stab wounds to her torso and neck at a house on Murray Street in Manoora, a suburb of Cairns. Children aged between two and 14 years of age were found dead at the scene.
Indigenous cultural protocols that are stipulated in an Australian Government document titled Indigenous Portal state that their identities must be protected: "The Australian media and broader community need to respect the cultural protocols of Indigenous people prohibiting the publication of names and images of recently deceased persons," it says.
Detective Inspector Asnicar said the state law forbade releasing their identities, referring to the Queensland Child Protection Act (1999) that "indicates" children must not be named.
He confirmed on Saturday afternoon that five fathers had been notified about the Queensland Police Service's arrest that morning of a mother for murder of eight children.
Autopsies continue and the cause of death cannot be confirmed until police receive the results of post mortems, he added.
National Indigenous Television's Rima Tamou, who grew up on Murray Street, is on the scene after returning to Cairns a few days ago for Christmas.
“It’s a big tragedy and Cairns is still coming to grips with this sad event," Rima said, "It’s a very sad, sad day for the residents of Murray Street, residents of Cairns, and the people of Queensland, and I’m sure the shockwave is going to be sent through the community for some time to come."
Around 120 community members took part in a candlelight vigil on Friday evening at the local Munro Martin Park to remember the children.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Queensland Premier Campbell Newman expressed their deep condolences and concern on Friday.
“All parents would feel a gut-wrenching sadness at what has happened. This is an unspeakable crime,” Abbott said.
“Tonight, there will be tears and prayers across our country for these children.”
Premier Newman said the Cairns community and the people of Queensland would feel the effects of this tragedy, “Particularly at a time of year when families come together”.
He added that he was aware about the impact this would have on emergency service workers and police officers who responded to the scene.
Police warn against any public speculation, in particular on social media, while their investigation is underway.
“We have a number of scientific police officers on the scene today, but there is a lot of evidence to gather," said Detective Inspector Asnicar. "We need to make sure that we put all of the pieces of the puzzle in the correct place.”
Stay with NITV as we bring you updated information on the police investigation. Rima Tamou is following the story from Cairns.
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