Tara Costigan put her three children above all else.
Her family, still grappling with her brutal death on Saturday, says she was born to be a mother, saving what little she could as a single parent to make sure her two boys went to a good school and were spoilt.
It was her love for family, they say, that made Ms Costigan fiercely protective to the end.
"Even as she faced her death, she did so in an act of defending her children and sister," the family said.
Marcus Rappel, 40, is accused of forcing his way into a Calwell home on Saturday, killing his former partner with an axe, inflicting grievous injuries on her sister, and seriously assaulting another man.
The alleged killing took place just one day after Ms Costigan turned to the court system for help, taking out an interim domestic violence order against Rappel.
Her large, close-knit family want her remembered for the "beautiful soul" that she was, always smiling, and willing to help others.
"She was bright, bubbly, and her enthusiasm for life was infectious," the family said in a statement issued by her cousin Nathan Costigan.
"She worked extremely hard to get to where she was in life. The odds were against her, but she never gave up."
Tara's own father died when she was just seven, and his extended family became the foundation of her life.
She worked in aged care, as a carer with BaptistCare. It was a job that she loved and in return earned her the love of those she looked after.
"Tara didn't just care for people; she loved people, often attending her clients' funerals," the family said.
Her aunt used to tell people she was like the "baby whisperer", and she became a surrogate mother for other children through her work at the Erindale Leisure Centre in Canberra's south.
Her sudden death has left her family in disbelief.
She had a large family of uncles, aunts, siblings, grandparents, and countless cousins.
"It is an extremely traumatic experience for the whole family," they said.
"So, so hard to believe she is gone, especially in such brutal circumstances."
Among those closest to Tara was her grandfather.
He passed away on February 27 last year, and the family had only just celebrated "Poppy's Day" on Friday, marking 12 months since his death.
The next day, Ms Costigan was killed.
Her grandmother, Margaret "Nanny" Costigan, said:
"Our whole family is just devastated."
But their focus has now turned to the three children left behind. Two boys, aged nine and 11, and a girl born little more than a week ago, will now grow up without their mother.
"Tara had three young, beautiful children who are our number one priority now," the family said.
BaptistCare paid tribute to Ms Costigan on Tuesday, describing her as a much-loved worker, and saying their staff were "deeply shocked" by her death.
"Tara was a dependable, bubbly and happy team member," chief executive officer Ross Low said.
"Her clients were incredibly praiseworthy of the care and support she gave them in their homes," he said.
BaptistCare has sent counsellors and chaplains to support Ms Costigan's team as they deal with the loss.
The community has also rallied around the family. A fundraising walk around Lake Burley Griffin is being organised on Facebook for Sunday March 22 at 10.30am.
It has already attracted thousands of likes.
A website set up to raise funds for her three children had already received $62,000 by 4pm on Tuesday. Donations have flooded in, increasing from $5000 at about 5pm on Monday.
Rappel faced the ACT Magistrates Court on Monday and is currently behind bars in the Alexander Maconochie Centre.
He made no application for bail and has not entered pleas. His case will return to court on March 17.