woman arrested for murdering 8 children
A woman holds her child during a church service for eight children who were killed in the Cairns suburb of Manoora on 21 December.Reuters

An 37-year-old Australian woman has been arrested for killing eight children, seven of whom were believed to be her own.

The woman, who has been accused of being responsible for one of Australia's worst mass killings, has been hospitalised to recover from stab wounds and is kept under guard, Queensland Police Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar told reporters on Saturday.

The victims were identified as her daughters- aged 12, 11 and two years old; sons aged nine, eight, six and five, and her niece aged 14. All of them were found dead inside the woman's home in north Queensland City's Cairns suburb of Manoora.

The police found her with multiple stab wounds and have not yet charged her with murder.

The accused is said to have been a maternal figure to her extended family and friends and the shocking news has upset her acquaintances, reports Guardian. A cousin of the accused even related that the woman was known as "Big Mama", as she was a figure of warmth who used to welcome children from all of the neighbourhood into her home and nurture them.

The Queensland police was called to the woman's home on Friday morning with information of a woman with serious injuries and was instead greeted by the dead bodies of the eight children. The woman was also found inside the house, with stab injuries to the chest.

Asnicar said charges against the arrested woman "will be considered of course – investigations are obviously continuing in that direction". The results of their autopsies would be available in a few days time and will clear up many questions regarding the mass murder.

The bereaved include five fathers who had children with the woman, apart from a couple from the accused's own community.

Several knives in the Cairns home are being looked into, to identify the weapon used for the murder. Suffocation is also not ruled out as the cause of death.