A large number of bodies were found in mass graves along a rural highway in the western New South Wales town of Wadden Bay last week, sparking fears of a wider burial problem in the area.

The bodies were discovered in the town’s Wadden Woods area last week by local residents who were concerned for the safety of their children.

Police are not yet releasing the names of the dead, who are believed to be between the ages of one and six years old.

Residents have told the ABC the bodies appear to be from the late Victorian era.

They said they found six bodies in the woods.

Local resident Dave Hatton said police had told him the area had a large number, and he suspected it was a case of mass burials.

“I had a lot of people saying ‘this is not normal’ and they said there was no way these people were coming to Wadden,” Mr Hatton told ABC Radio Sydney.

A small amount of evidence was found at the scene, including a broken window in one of the graves.

Mr Hatton was also told the bodies were from the Victorian era, indicating the deaths were not from the era of the Victorian state government, which was abolished in 1901.

Witnesses told police they were looking for the remains of children in the mass graves, and said they had heard a few gunshots in the distance.

It was not immediately clear if police were treating the deaths as suspicious.

Earlier this month, police in the Australian Capital Territory also found three bodies in a mass grave near Alice Springs, about 160 kilometres (100 miles) north-west of Wadyara.

In August, the Federal Government said a “mass burial” of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Western Australia was a growing problem and urged families to report any suspicious burial.

More than 5,500 people have been buried in Western Australian’s remote areas, according to the WA Police Service.

Topics:disaster-incidents,community-and-society,death,deaths-and_accidents,wa,wa-0800,australiaMore stories from Western Australia