From Marginalised Malcontents to Micronation Monarchs: The Australian Experience

Local history, Popular Culture, Regional History

/span>

Within the world of macropolitics, the realm of large-scale political entities, the urge by some within the whole to secede has always been a recognisable element of those societies. During the last half century Australia as elsewhere has witnessed the emergence of individuals or small groups of people wanting to break away, for varying reasons, and go it alone.

The actions of micronations✻ or “would-be” micronations (sometimes called “model countries”) have been motivated by a host of varying reasons. These include genuine secessionist aspirations, environmental protests, a sense of grievance and financial motives. Quite a few seem to be specifically humorous in intent. Some micronations are just left-field wacky, like Asgardia, a Russian initiative which seeks to launch satellites into space to found a “real nation” recognised by the UN (and therefore, it claims, protect Earth from the threat of asteroids, solar storms and space junk)[1].

The ‘border’ bridge between Vilnius & Užupis
Reactions of the periphery to the metropolitan centre have prompted the rise of quasi-anarchist communities purporting (seriously or less seriously) to be outside the jurisdiction of that same central authority…two such European instances of this are Freetown Christiana in Copenhagen whose advocates proclaimed autonomy over a small district of the city in 1971 and an established open drug trade (tolerated by the Danish authorities until 2004); and Užupis (Užupio Res Publika), a tiny enclave within Vilnius, described perhaps somewhat romantically as a “modern manifestation of a bohemian Free State”[2]. Whereas Freetown strove for a kind of anarchist autonomy, the unrecognised “Republic of Užupis” adopted all the trappings of a sovereign state (flag, currency, politicians, anthem, etc) but uncertainty remains whether the Užupis entity is “intended to be serious, tongue-in-cheek, or a combination of both”[3].

The Prince of Hutt R Province
His Royal Hutt River Highness
One recurring theme of micronationhood including in Australia has been the singular protest against the state (or against the local authority). Leading the way in this (chronologically at least) is Prince Leonard and his self-declared Principality of Hutt River. Leonard Casley was an unremarkable wheat farmer in rural Western Australia in 1970 when a dispute with the state of WA over the wheat production quota set him on a course of (declaring) succession from Australia. ‘Prince’ Leonard adopted royal titles and garb for himself and his family and the Hutt River Principality grew into a tourist attraction. Casley’s failure to comply with his taxation requirements resulted in a Commonwealth prosecution in 1977 which the prince, increasingly behaving like Count Rupert of Mountjoy✪, responded by declaring war on Australia![4].

The Hutt River WA prince, after easing himself into the unfamiliar mantle, like other Micronation ‘monarchs’ enthusiastically set about establishing the tourism potentiality of the novel enclave in the Western Australian bush…HR Province began issuing ‘royal’ stamps, ‘legal'(sic) currency and passports (described by the Council of Europe dismissively as “fantasy passports”)[5]. In 2017 Prince Leonard now a nonagenarian ‘abdicated’ in favour of his son, the altogether less regally sounding ‘Prince’ Graeme.

King Paul with his court (Source: News Ltd)
The principality of the suburban quarter-acre block
Some breakaway entities and would-be sovereign states have arisen from the most trivial of domestic matters, eg, Mosman artist and art school principal Paul Delprat founded the Principality of Wy as a consequence of his local Sydney council’s refusal to grant permission for a residential driveway (a dispute lasting over 20 years!)[6]. Presiding over his ‘kingdom’ which comprised in area one suburban block, ‘King’ Paul, possessed of a theatrical bent and a large supply of whimsy, has warmed to his new status, naturally going the “whole hog” with full regal fancy dress, pomp and ceremony!

Global open borders orchestrated from the NSW South West Slopes
George Cruikshank together with his cousins started up his own micronation whilst still a schoolboy in Sydney. Known as the Empire of Atlantium ‘Emperor George II runs it from Reids Flat¤, 344km inland from Sydney…the 0.76 square kilometre province has its own post office, government buildings, currency, national anthem and monuments (ie, a small white pyramid and obelisk in the micronation’s Lilliputian-sized capital). What marks Atlantium out from other micronations is its espousal of liberal, progressive values – described by the Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations as serious in its aims and “a refreshing antidote to the reactionary self-aggrandisement of so many micronations”…a “secular humanist utopia”[7] George is also a bit atypical as ‘micronationals’ go as his separatist impulse derives not from a specific beef with local authority but from genuine idealism. Emperor George advocates the international freedom of movement and other socially progressive goals. The Empire claims in excess of 3,000 ‘citizens’ hailing from various parts of the globe – all signed up online.

A Great Britain strawberry patch in Sth Australia!
The strawberry fields United Kingdom
One of the more exotic if not outright wacky secessionists in Australia was Alec Brackstone. English migrant Brackstone, alarmed at the prospect (as he saw it) of Australia’s drift toward republicanism, founded the Province of Bumbunga in rural South Australia in the 1970s. The ultra-monarchist, self-appointed governor-general of the breakaway mini-state, planted thousands of strawberry plants in the pattern of a huge scale model of Great Britain (A++ for loyalty/subservience to the Crown!) The Bunbunga Province also issued Cinderella stamps honouring the royals, but the province dissolved in the late 1990s after the “G-G” was charged with possession of illegal firearms and repatriated to the UK[8].

PostScript: Micro-states of mind?
Wy and the self-styled Hutt River and Bumbunga provinces conform with RT Reid’s characterisation of the ethos of contemporary micronations …”mock sovereign states fuelled by local disputes, utopian idealism and the imaginations of a few eccentric individuals”[9]. Ultimately it is that eccentricity, together with their isolation and the fact that they pose no real inconvenience or harm to the greater (macro) political entity✦, explains why they tend to be tolerated (but not encouraged) by the central authority of the state.

﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏
✻ defined as an entity claiming to be an independent nation or state but not recognised by world governments or major international or supranational organisations, ‘Micronations’, Wikipedia, http://en.m.wikipedia.org
✪ leader of the fictional minuscule tinpot state of Grand Fenwick which declares war on the USA in the 1959 comedy/satire The Mouse That Roared
¤ Cruickshank’s Atlantium had two prior “spiritual homes” in Sydney, a house in suburban Narwee and a flat in inner city Potts Point
✦ the ‘Principality’ of Seborga in the Italian Riviera is a good case in point: despite a 98.7% vote in favour of independence from Italy in 1995, the tiny town (pop: <400) still pays its taxes to Rome [1] 'Space oddity: Group claims to have created nation in space', Science, 12-Oct-2016, www.sciencemag.org
[2] J Crabb, ‘Gabriele D’Annunzio And The Free State of Fiume’, (Culture Trip), 12-Jul-2017, www.theculturetrip.com
[3] ‘The Republic of Užupis’ (Užupis Everywhere), www.uzhupisembassy.eu . Some of the more absurd sounding clauses of the Užupis Constitution evoke a suggestion of whimsical hippiedom, eg, 12. A dog has the right to be a dog.
[4] ‘Micronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations’, (J Ryan, G Dunford & S Sellars, (2006)
[5] ‘Principality of Hutt River’, Wikipedia, http://en.m.wikipedia.org
[6] ‘Prince of Wy Paul Delprat loses driveway court battle’,
(Simone Roberts), Mosman Daily, 17-Jul-2013
[7] Lonely Planet, op.cit.
[8] ‘Province of Bumbunga’, Wikipedia, http://en.m.wikipedia.org. Hutt River, Atlantium and Bumbunga are only three of the estimated 35 Australian micro-nations in existence at one time or other, according to ‘A quick tour of some of the many, many Micronations Australia has to offer’, (Joseph Earp, Mashable Australia, www.mashable.com
[9] RT Reid, ‘Micronations of the World’, Smithsonian, 23-Aug-2009, www.smithsonianmag.com
⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉⑉