• The Manoora Community Centre in Cairns is offering support to members of the public in the lead up to the “Keriba Omasker – Our Children” Memorial Service that will take place at 10.00am this Saturday. (Photos: Myles Morgan/NITV News)
The Manoora community in north Queensland is coming together for the healing process after the loss of Keriba Omasker (Our Children) last month.
By
Myles Morgan

Source:
NITV News
9 Jan 2015 - 12:33 PM  UPDATED 11 Mar 2015 - 10:00 AM

 

A car pulls up to Indigenous police liaison officer Kathy Lowah in a leafy, green Cairns street. Inside, a family with three children sit in the back seat.

"Excuse me, where do you leave the flowers?" asks the man driving.

"Just up there, bub," she replies.

Tributes are still coming in for Keriba Omasker (Our Children) at a park next to the home in Murray Street.

Flowers, candles and teddy bears have been laid at the base of a huge tree in the park, just metres away from the home.

The house has been fenced off and council signs read “Danger – Keep off”. This is the place where eight young children were found dead inside their home last month just before Christmas. The mother of seven of the children, and aunt to the eighth, has been charged with their murder.

Locals in Cairns are retrying to draw attention away from the Murray Street house to a few buildings down at the Manoora Community Centre, one of the most important places in the healing process.

"They come in, they see a familiar face, they know who I am," says Officer Lowah.

"The children have been affected deeply. They've lost friends, some of them are cousins, so they've been affected like any other family member. These are kids who used to live in that street so they miss their friends."

Kathy Lowah is from Moa Island in the Torres Strait. She's been with the Queensland Police Service for about 10 years where she has formed a vital bridge between the locals and the police.

There are about 10,000 Indigenous people in the Cairns area of far north Queensland, according to the local council, and many of them live in the suburb of Manoora. Emotions were highest there on 19 December in the hours after the tragedy.

"The older kids came in and just wanted to be held. For me, as a Cairns community member and a Torres Strait Islander woman, it means I can help with their wellbeing and help their healing," said Kathy Lowah.

The local community has come together to donate gifts, furniture and food and the international community has voiced its condolences. Police and support workers have received calls from Italy, the United States and England.

For the police, last month was just as traumatic as it was for the community.

"This tragedy's on a scale that's been unprecedented,” said Detective Senior Sergeant Brad Winks. “To have such a horrific event occur here in Cairns would never have been imagined.

"A lot of police who've been involved in the investigation have been exposed to some quite significant trauma."

It is not often that the police and local children play games of basketball together, however, earlier in the week that is what happened. About a dozen local police and as many Cairns children came together to shoot hoops at a local school in a gesture of goodwill between the police and the community, which has been developing over the last few weeks.

"The thanks we've been getting from the community have been very well received by a lot of the officers and assisted them to a large degree to deal with this."