A mother who violently attacked her eight-week-old daughters, killing one, has been granted a working with children permit to work for her favourite AFL team.
Tina Terlato avoided jail for killing her daughter Amanda inside their suburban home in Melbourne on Anzac Day, 2012.
She also brutally assaulted Amanda’s twin Alicia, who will suffer lifelong disabilities.
Terlato has since been given approval to work with children under a new role with the Essendon cheer club, designing banners alongside youngsters – a decision that has left the father of her children ‘disgusted’.
‘Every time I see her face when she poses up with AFL players or when I hear about her attending games – it just brings back bad memories,’ Paul Terlato told the Herald Sun.
‘I’m shocked, I’m disgusted, I’m angry. Essendon Football Club and the AFL need to stop her membership and refuse her entry anywhere in Australia.’
Tina Terlato has been granted a working with children permit to work for Essendon
When Alicia Terlato and her twin sister Amanda (pictured) were just eight weeks old when they were violently attacked by their mother. Amanda’s injuries proved fatal, while Alicia will suffer from disabilities for life
Tina Terlato (pictured) was charged with murder, but instead pleaded guilty to one count of infanticide and was sentenced to a 12-month community corrections order
The new role sees her helping to design and construct the banner players run through before games, a job that often includes child volunteers.
It’s not known how someone with the convictions like Terlato was able to obtain a working with children permit, which are only handed to people with no prior offences.
In a letter sent by Essendon to its members over the hiring of Terlato the club said ‘criminal convictions don’t prohibit people from becoming members of the club’.
‘Passing a police, background check is not a requirement. All members of the Bomber Squad are required to pass a working with children check in order to participate in activities like banner making,’ the letter obtained by the Herald Sun says.
‘If a member’s status ever changes, then we would act accordingly.’
Alicia’s father Paul (pictured) was told his surviving daughter would likely be confined to a wheelchair for life, but she has ‘defied the odds’. Mr Terlato also praised his son Luke (left) who he says is ‘mature beyond his years’ and has helped his sister’s development enormously
The plight of the Terlato twins was secret until a suppression order was lifted in late 2019, allowing their family to finally voice their anger at the sentence Tina received.
The twins’ aunt Michelle Terlato has called for the infanticide law to be scrapped in Victoria, and with states including Western Australia doing so in recent years, it is a push that has now received support from victims’ advocates.
Introduced in England in the 1920s, infanticide intended to ensure women who killed their children would not be charged with murder, and therefore sentenced to death.
Over the years it was subsequently introduced in Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia.
After a review by its Law Review Commission, Western Australia repealed it in 2008.
While the age limit for a child victim in Victoria is two years, elsewhere it stands at 12 months.
Infanticide is an applicable charge for mothers found to be of a ‘disturbed’ mind and as such was used in the case of Tina Terlato, due to claims of post-natal depression.
While she understands the intentions of such a law, her former sister-in-law Michelle Terlato believes it has been rendered ‘archaic’ over time and devalues the lives of young children.
Joe Tucci, CEO of the Australian Childhood Foundation, agrees.
Mr Tucci lobbied hard for the Victorian Law Reform Commission to repeal the law in 2004 and believes now is the time for infanticide to be once again be scrutinised.
‘It is incumbent on the law to put children first when they’re trying to protect and get justice for them,’ he said.
‘The fact that there’s an infanticide law, it’s an outdated law from my point of view, in the sense of the supports we have available for people now.
‘The most important essential tenant of the law is to protect the most vulnerable, and in these situations the most vulnerable has to be the babies.
Joe Tucci, CEO of the Australian Childhood Foundation, says it is ‘definitely’ time for a review into the infanticide law. The last review was carried out in Victoria in 2004, during which time Western Australia has repealed the law
INFANTICIDE ACROSS AUSTRALIA:
– Infanticide was introduced in the United Kingdom in the 1920s and followed in Australia.
– It allows for mothers who kill their children not to be sentenced with murder, if they are found to be suffering a disturbed mind.
– Those mental health issues must arise from giving birth or a disorder from giving birth.
– As of 2020, the law only remains in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.
– It carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail – as opposed to 25 years for murder – but no woman found guilty of infanticide has ever been imprisoned.
– Western Australia repealed the law in 2008, while Victoria’s Law Reform Commission assessed the law in 2004 but decided it should remain in place.
‘I think there should be a greater penalty for children who are the most vulnerable… the younger the child, the more severe the penalty, not the other way around.’
But it is not just Tina Terlato who has avoided jail in recent years for killing a child.
Sofina Nikat, 23, killed 14-month-old baby girl Sanaya inside her home and then took it to nearby Darebin Creek.
While she admitted to police that she believed her daughter was possessed, Nikat pleaded not guilty to murder.
Psychiatrists agreed that Nikat was not mentally fit and like Tina Terlato, she received a sentence of a 12-month community corrections order.
The deaths of Amanda Terlato and Sanaya Nikat have both come in the years since a review into the infanticide law in Victoria was carried out.
In 2004 the Victorian Law Reform Commission was asked to determine whether the infanticide law should be repealed or altered, but ultimately advised the then-Labor government against any change.
The VLRC found that the death of a toddler at the hands of its mother ‘is a distinct kind of human tragedy’.
Since then Western Australia has repealed the law, with one of the main reasons for the decision being that any magistrate or judge should take the mental health of an accused into consideration anyway when sentencing.
A similar review in New South Wales in 1997 saw the review commission advise that the law be repealed, however it was retained by the government.
Alicia Terlato is now smiling, walking and talking just like any other girl her age, eight years on from a horror attack at the hands of her mother Tina. The vicious assault left Alicia with serious injuries and means she will suffer disabilities for life and make almost weekly trips to hospital
When asked if it was time Victoria once again looked at the law, the state’s current attorney-general Jill Hennessy (pictured) refused to comment
Michelle Terlato said something has to be done to stop similarly ‘pathetic’ sentences, such as that handed down to Tina Terlato.
‘We as a family feel that babies lives and childrens lives don’t really count that much,’ she said.
‘I feel like I’m justified in saying this because I’m a woman – I feel like it’s hard for men to say this because they’ll get shot down simply because they are a man – but I think infanticide is a very sexist and archaic law.
‘It was brought in to protect women with babies who were unwed hundreds of years ago and were shunned by society, or had no choice but to kill their newborn.
‘There’s certainly no excuse these days to feel that you’re in that position, not to have the support and care to be able to look after a newborn.
‘We have been fighting really hard for the Victorian Government to look at the law of infanticide and possibly get rid of the law, we really feel it’s not appropriate anymore.
‘Women scream for equality, but when it comes to things like this they don’t want it… well, you can’t have it both ways.’
THE TRAGIC ABUSE SUFFERED BY AMANDA AND ALICIA TERLATO AT THE HANDS OF THEIR MOTHER:
– On the evening of April 25, 2012, Tina Terlato brutally assaulted her eight-week-old twin daughters Amanda and Alicia inside their Melbourne home.
– Then she lay them gently back in their cots.
– It was not until a few hours later when their father Paul Terlato went to check on them that the alarm was raised.
Alicia Terlato with her father Paul and older brother Luke
– They were both rushed to hospital but Amanda died during surgery, while Alicia still suffers severe disabilities including cerebral palsy because of the attack.
– Police arrested Tina Terlato and charged her with murder, but that was later downgraded to infanticide. She pleaded guilty and received a community corrections order, meaning she did not have to spend any time in prison.
– In sentencing, Victorian Supreme Court Justice Bernard Bongiorno cited Tina’s mental health issues as a determining factor.
– At the time of the attack, doctors feared Alicia would never walk again.
– Today, Alicia has made incredible steps in her recovery and is now on the verge of running for the first time. She attends a mainstream school and enjoys going to soccer games with her father and older brother, Luke.
– Incredibly, a court ordered that Tina continue to have access to her children, although they live with their father fulltime.
There were fears Alicia would never be able to walk, but she is currently in grade two at a mainstream school in Melbourne and is getting closer each and every day to running
– While her father holds high hopes that the improvements of recent years will go on, he is prepared to be by her side regardless.
– ‘Just like any child you have, I want her to grow up happy and healthy, to get married and have children, to have independence and to work,’ Paul said.
– ‘But if it doesn’t eventuate like that it’s not going to worry me. She can stay with me for the rest of her life. I’m her father and nothing is going to change that.’