Australia has a longstanding tradition of defying the government. One such tradition, secession from government, took prominence in the 1970s and ’80s thanks to the efforts of a group of five wronged families in the Hutt River region of Western Australia. Although many of these micronations have since disappeared, there are still a handful that exist; none more successful than the first of its kind in Australia, the Principality of Hutt River.
After a stoush (Aussie slang for fight) with the Australian government over wheat quotas, a group of five farmsteads in the Hutt River region of Western Australia, an area of approximately 72 square kilometres or roughly the size of Hong Kong, banded together to fight the government’s forced acquisition of their land. These five families discovered a loophole in the British Treason Act of 1495 (Australia, as part of the Commonwealth, is answerable to British law) by which they were able to secede from the Commonwealth of Australia. Subsequently, in July of 1970, the sovereign nation of the Principality of Hutt River was formed with Leonard Casley, the main protagonist in the case against the government, being elected as Sovereign and Head of State. He later renamed himself His Royal Highness Prince Leonard of Hutt to ensure that, under Commonwealth law, anyone who interfered with his duties could be charged with treason.
In the years that followed the Australian government made every effort to make life difficult for the inhabitants of this constitutional monarchy. Australia Post refused to deliver mail, the government imposed a tax on any goods arriving or leaving the Principality, and the Australian Tax Office continually hounded them for payment of taxes. Fed up with this treatment, in 1977 the Principality declared war on Australia. Peace was declared several days later whereupon the mail system was restored and requests for payments ceased. The Principality has been left to its own devices ever since.
With its own Royal Mint, postage stamps, passports, driver’s licenses, newspaper, publicly owned companies and even a defense force, the Principality is a surprising example of just how long a micro-nation can last under the shadow of its much larger neighbor.
Update as of April 2020: The Principality dissolved in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its land will be sold off to settle the half-century-long tax dispute with the Australian Taxation Office.