A Traralgon child has clubbed his pocket money together with three others, paying $69.70 to launch a private criminal prosecution against the Jehovah's Witnesses.
The child, 11, who is due to give evidence on Monday at the state inquiry into how the churches handled child sex abuse, wanted to force the church to comply with working with children laws. After four hearings, to which church leaders did not send a representative, the church began complying and the Office of Public Prosecutions intervened to discontinue the case.
The inquiry will also hear from anti-Jehovah's Witness campaigner Steven Unthank, a former member of the church who says he and his family were ostracised and persecuted after he tried to tackle child abuse.
His submission alleges the church and its incorporated body, the Watchtower Society, covered up criminal child abuse, including rape, sexual assault, death threats, blackmail and assault, across four states by ordained ministers and officers of the church.
The Victorian and Civil Administrative Tribunal will hear a religious vilification complaint against the church by Mr Unthank in May, after the church said people who left the church, as he had, were ''mentally diseased''.
And the Victorian Health Services Commissioner is investigating a complaint by another former Gippsland church member that a Jehovah's Witness chaplain was found alone without permission with a naked toddler in a room at Latrobe Regional Hospital.
The child appearing today, who cannot be named, has asked the inquiry to determine whether the church's failure to get working with children checks between July 2008 and December 2011 amounted to criminal child abuse of all 6160 Jehovah's Witness children in Victoria.
He asks why the government and police let the church ''get away with'' non-compliance, and whether the state will help file a class action against the church.
The submission suggests the 2000 Jehovah's Witnesses who worked with children were committing criminal offences each week. These included ministers, elders, chaplains, teachers, volunteers, publishers (a term for people who doorknock) and even people who repair the church premises, called Kingdom Halls, "as they use child labour to save money".
The child says he and his family have also been ostracised by the church and forbidden to attend services. ''Because everyone protected them, I have now lost my religion.
"The state of Victoria allowed this to happen."
The four children launched their prosecution with a magistrate's permission on July 26, 2011. In October 2011 the church's Governing Body wrote to all Victorian congregations, telling them to get the checks. At the final court hearing, on February 21, 2012, the Director of Public Prosecutions discontinued the case, saying it was not in the public interest.
"How can [tackling] child abuse not be in the public interest? How can criminal charges be discontinued after the person refused to turn up to court of five separate occasions?" the child asks. He wants charges reinstated against church leaders.
A spokeswoman for the Office of Public Prosecutions said the charges were withdrawn because there was no reasonable prospect of conviction.
Vincent Toole, solicitor for the Jehovah's Witnesses, said the fact that the church got working with children checks had nothing to do with Steven Unthank, whom he suggested was behind the court case. ''We find it disappointing that he continues to misrepresent our organisation.''
Mr Toole said Mr Unthank unsuccessfully tried to get authorities to take action against the church over working with children checks, and "after none were prepared to pursue the matter, he took the extraordinary step of instituting a private prosecution".
"Jehovah's Witnesses abhor child abuse, and place the protection of children at the highest level," he said.