• Floral tributes on Thursday lay near the home where the lives of eight children were taken before Christmas last year in Cairns in far north Queensland. (Photos: Myles Morgan/NITV News)
Preparations are almost complete in Cairns for a huge memorial service to remember the eight children who were murdered there last month.
Myles Morgan

9 Jan 2015 - 12:51 PM  UPDATED 9 Jan 2015 - 9:14 PM


Up to 5,000 mourners are expected to fill out Cairns' waterfront exhibition centre on Saturday for the service.

A final memorial planning meeting took place on Friday at Cairns Regional Council between local council, state government and the police.

Cairns Mayor Bob Manning, who was brought up in the neighbourhood where the children passed away, expressed the enormity of tomorrow’s occasion on the sidelines of the meeting.

“The families have to live with this for the rest of their lives and many people will, they’ll never forget this day,” Mr Manning said. “This sort of thing doesn’t happen. Many people in their lifetime will never experience anything of this nature.”

When asked about the fate of the house in which the children were killed, Mr Manning said that the council would not make a decision about the future of the house. “We’ll listen to what the will of the families is, the people who live in that area and the Torres Strait Islander community.”

The Torres Strait Islander siblings belonged to a number of different families.

"With the three families and their extended families, we're talking about 1,000 people in that group alone. I'd expect a couple of thousand [members of the public], it could be 3,000 or 4,000," said funeral director Marcus Hill.

"I don't think any funeral of this size has been held in Cairns."

Mr Hill of Burkin Svendsens Funeral Directors started planning the service on Christmas Eve.

The Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion and Queensland Premier Campbell Newman are expected to attend.

The funeral service will be held at 10.00 am on Saturday morning and it will follow with a 12-kilometre funeral procession to a local Cairns cemetery where the children will be laid to rest.

"Understanding how traditional the family want to have the funeral is one of the key components," said Mr Hill.

"Understanding how ‘hands on’ the family wants to be from a cultural aspect, from the preparation of the deceased persons right through to the act of filling the grave at the cemetery, we've had to factor that in."

The family have designed the eight graves of the children so that they do not rest side by side. Seen from above, the graves will resemble the sun's rays.

"The design is based on one of the family members seeing sun rays coming out of a cloud and that's the pattern the children will be laid to rest in," said Mr Hill.

In addition to an outpouring of grief, Cairns has seen many acts of kindness over the last few weeks.

Cairns Regional Council is covering the cost of the plot at the local cemetery, and a coffin manufacturer has donated the specially made coffins to the family.

Rather than being thousands of dollars out of pocket, the families of the children now have one less thing to worry about as they grieve.

Despite the sensitivities in preparing for the memorial service on Saturday, all families have worked together to ensure that their children, Keriba Omasker, are laid to rest with dignity and respect.

The family and Cairns community would like to ensure that helplines are made available:

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