There’s a Micronation in Australia and it’s Awesome!
POSTED BY Mavy | July 10, 2015
The story of Hutt River is a tale of determination and excellent use of international law. What began as a crazy notion actually turned into a reality. Of all the things to do in Australia, visiting Hutt River should be on your travel itinerary because of it’s weird and wonderful background.
One man stood up to Australia and ended up creating his very own sovereign state. Yes, there is a micronation in Australia, and it’s awesome. It even has its own currency and stamps. You probably don’t know who his Royal Highness Prince Leonard I of Hutt is, but you will be blown away when you discover how he beat the system.
The Beginnings of a Micronation
Leonard Casley was just a lowly wheat farmer until he seceded from Australia and declared an independent state following a row with the Australian government. The government were telling him how much he could grow and threatened to take his farm unless he agreed to their terms. He claimed their quota on his wheat would put him out of business.
His farm had around 4,000 hectares of wheat available for harvest but the Australian government would only allow them to sell approximately 40 hectares. So what does any person do in this situation? Declare their own state of course. Something that most people would think was near impossible, but not for feisty Leonard.
His troubles began in 1969, when the Western Australian Government imposed strict wheat production quotas. In rebellion, he used international law to apply for secession and declared the Hutt River Province and independent state.
Malcolm Fraser, the Prime Minister at the time, sent the taxation department after Leonard. There were three court cases which resulted in Leonard complaining that Malcolm Fraser waged at state of cold war on his principality. Tough old Leonard then did something even crazier, he declared war on Australia. Of course when the government found out they didn’t take his threat seriously and probably had a few giggles over the matter.
However, they weren’t laughing three days later when according to Act 103 of Australia, being undefeated in a state of war gives him Sovereignty. Despite this, the Australian government still does not recognise secession of the Hutt River Province.
But that didn’t stop Leonard from taking his duties as Prince very seriously. He still thinks he is running his own country. He claims, ‘It is a country. Now, as a country you would expect it to have its currency, its post office, and all these things.’ Leonard dresses as a prince and is extremely passionate about his role.
The Micronation Phenomenon
Hutt River is five hour’s drive north of Perth and has 18,500 acres of farmland. It declared its independence on the 21st of April, 1970. Hutt River is now over 40 years old, making it the oldest micronation in Australia. Hutt River claims to have a worldwide citizenry of around 14,000 people, but the principality only has 23 actually residents. Most of the people who have passports are dual citizens who live elsewhere in the world.
After Leonard successful story, many more micronations popped up in Australia, there are now around 30. Although Leonard considers his to be the only serious one. It’s thought that there are around 70 micronations around the world, which means Australia accounts for almost half of them.
Sociologists have studied the phenomenon of the micronation, conducting academic research on why they are formed. Judy Lattas, a sociologist at Macquarie University commented on the Hutt River example, saying ‘many officials in Western Australia, some quite high up, and even nationally in Australia are happy to play out the myth of Hutt River’s sovereignty — attending functions, returning correspondence, abandoning the claim for tax.’
Living Tax Free
The state is 75 square metres in size, making it similar in size to Hong Kong. Its main exports are stamps, coins, wildflowers and agricultural produce. Leonard now lives in his own special tax haven, something that a lot of people are very envious of. He was a man whose ambitions might have seemed a little farfetched, but with his knowledge of the law he was able to identify a huge loophole. He rebelled against Australia and boy did it pay off. Perhaps dreams really do come true.
Leonard now makes money from sheep, wool and tourism but he doesn’t pay a cent in income tax. On his tax forms it states that he is ‘deemed to be a non-resident of Australia for income tax purposes’. The Hutt River Province attracts around 40,000 tourists a year, mainly from overseas countries. Leonard is certainly doing well for himself.
Visiting The Hutt River Province
The Hutt River Province has its own constitution, tax system and laws that are issued by a government made up of five people. Lots of tourists visit Hutt River to get an insight into this fascinating micronation. Passports are checked and stamped upon arrival and guests are issued entrance and exit visas.