Only three years ago, the five youngest Desnica kids lived at the heart of a traditional nuclear family, with a dad who firmly guided them and a mum who made them the centre of her world.
But now relatives are grappling with the heartbreaking task of raising them, after an unthinkable series of tragedies left them and their five young adult siblings orphaned.
Mother-of-ten Leighanne Ward, from Koonawarra in the NSW Illawarra region, succumbed to sepsis on March 8, almost 18 months after she was diagnosed with bile duct cancer.
She was 42.
Her death came three years after her husband Jamie Desnica died of an aneurysm while he was at home watching TV with the boys: James (now 16), Damian (13), Kyle (11), Declan (9) and Reid (7).
At a funeral service on Wednesday, Ms Ward was remembered as an "incredible" mother who was "the epitome of a strong and independent woman" and who "had such a positive impact on the people she loved and cared for".
Speaking on behalf of her nine siblings, eldest daughter Bridgette, 24, said the children could not have known their time with their mother would be so short.
"Mum always said we could be whoever we wanted to be," she said.
"She was a person you could really depend on and was constantly supporting her children no matter if they wanted to climb the biggest mountain or build the biggest block tower.
"Growing up, our mum always made sure my siblings and I were taken care of. She would sacrifice her happiness for ours.
"Mum, I want you to know that we will all be OK. We will look after one another and we will support each other through the good times and the bad."
Ms Ward, Mr Desnica and the five boys moved to the Illawarra from Queensland in 2019, to be near extended family.
After the death of her husband, Ms Ward suffered some stomach pains which were not thoroughly investigated, according to Bridgette.
In late-2021, by then suffering jaundice, she was diagnosed with stage 4 bile duct cancer, and given a life expectancy of nine months.
"It was far worse seeing how much our mum deteriorated, compared to our dad, whose death was so sudden. She was a very strong woman. It was hard seeing how much it [cancer] took from her," Bridgette said.
"Our biggest [priority] now is just getting support for the boys and making sure they are able to deal with losing both parents at such a young age. For us older ones, we got to live our childhoods with our parents. But our brothers, they don't get that opportunity. They don't have a father teaching them things, they don't have a mother teaching them things."
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The young boys will likely be split between the care of their Illawarra aunt, Kylie Ward, and their older siblings, who live in Queensland.
Close family friend Kathy Pipe set up a Gofundme campaign on Tuesday after realising Kylie would never ask for help - but needed it. The funds are intended to cover the costs of a family vehicle and other necessities.
"Kylie's got two kids of her own, both with disabilities, and she also has both her grandchildren two nights a week. She needs a bigger vehicle. A Commodore station wagon can't fit seven people," Ms Pipe said.
Among those to speak at Wednesday's funeral service was Ms Ward's father Steve, who told mourners he would miss his daughter dearly.
"But she will always be alive in the faces of her children, and in my heart and thoughts," he said.
Visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/helping-a-caring-aunty to support the family's fundraising campaign.