A girl who was killed by her mother in Cairns in 2011 had been removed from her care over abuse claims a year before the death, a court has heard.

A Queensland teacher’s aide noticed a cigarette burn, welts and a fist-sized bruise on a girl a year before she was killed by her mother.

The woman, who can’t be named, told an inquest in Cairns on Monday the eight-year-old told her in 2010 her mother had hit her.

A year later the child was found dead at a Cairns residence after her mother repeatedly beat her with a vacuum cleaner pipe over a two-week period.

Her mother is serving a seven-year jail sentence after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

The teacher’s aide immediately reported the abuse, and the child was put into foster care after a police and Child Safety investigation.

She was later returned to her mother.

An inquest, which will look at what involvement government and private agencies had with the girl before her death, is underway in Cairns.

The teacher’s aide told the court that in November 2010 she noticed the girl was wearing a long-sleeve shirt under her uniform while playing on the school playground.

She said the girl came to her and told her about the abuse, some of which included hitting the child with “hard things” and metal spoons.

“She was peeling up her sleeve and looking at me and I started to notice the welts,” the woman told the court.

The child also had a bruise on her back the size of a fist, welts and what was believed to be a cigarette burn, the inquest heard.

After the conversation, the child went from being cheerful to withdrawn, the woman said.

The girl didn’t attend school for a long time before she died.

The inquest also heard the teacher’s aide had reported possible abuse to the child in 2009 after noticing a large bruise on her stomach.

An investigation was carried out but the allegations couldn’t be substantiated and it was thought the girl may have had a skin disorder.

The inquest heard earlier on Monday that the child’s step grandfather didn’t alert police or Child Safety, despite the mother admitting to him that she was abusing the child.

He told the court he had been too busy and feared his biological grandchildren, the woman’s other children, would be taken into foster care if he spoke out.

A Child Safety officer, who was part of an internal Ethical Standards investigation, told the inquest they stood by the decisions they’d made when handling the case.

However, the officer said on reflection some things would have been done differently.

The officer has since had additional training in risk assessment and safety and the department has undergone changes.

A guidance counsellor who spoke to the girl in 2011 told the inquest she would like to see more support staff in schools so vulnerable children can have greater access to help.

The inquest continues.