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Mum charged with children's murder

An Australian woman has been charged with murder over the deaths of seven of her children and her niece, whose bodies were found inside her home.

Mersane Warria, 37, was charged with eight counts of murder in a bedside hearing at a Queensland hospital where she is recovering from stab wounds.

The children four girls and four boys, were aged between two and 14.

Police found the children's bodies after they were called to the home in the Cairns suburb of Manoora on Friday morning after receiving a report of a woman with serious injuries.

Police have not said how the children died, but Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar of Queensland police said they were examining several knives in the home. Suffocation was also a possible cause of death, he said.

"We are considering that and that's why it's taking a bit of time," he said. "It could be a range of things, from suffocation to 1,000 other things."

Police are not looking for any other suspects.

Dozens of weeping mourners have visited a makeshift memorial of flowers, stuffed animals and candles set up in a park next to the family's home. "My babies, my babies," one man wailed.

A Sunday church service was held for the children and a candlelight vigil was planned.

The tragedy comes as Australia is still reeling from the shock of a deadly siege in a Sydney cafe.

A gunman burst into the cafe in the heart of the city last week and took 18 hostages, two of whom were killed along with the gunman after police stormed in 16 hours later in a bid to end the stand-off.

"The news out of Cairns is heartbreaking," prime minister Tony Abbott said after the Manoora murders. "All parents would feel a gut-wrenching sadness at what has happened. This is an unspeakable crime. These are trying days for our country."

A hearing is scheduled for Monday, but Warria was excused from attending. Police planned to oppose any request for bail, Mr Ascinar said.

"This is very raw and it is a very emotive time for everybody," he said. "The family is deeply upset but the community is pulling together."

Asked how the children's five fathers were coping with the tragedy, he replied: "I don't think we need much imagination to understand how they are feeling."

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