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In 1970, an Australian wheat farmer by the name of Leonard George Casley owned a farm with nearly 10,000 acres ready for harvest. But he would end up being unable to  reap the vast, vast majority of it. The government of the state of Western Australia issued quotas which limited the wheat allow for sale that year; for Casley, it meant that he could only sell the wheat grown on about 100 of his acres. So Casley, after a failed protest, did what others would do: he left Australia.

Except that Casley did not physically relocate.  Rather, he seceded.

Casley formed the Principality of Hutt River (which he originally called the “Hutt River Province”), a landlocked micronation consisting of his 75 square kilometers of land located about 500 km north of Perth. While normally such acts would be considered moot and void on inception, for some reason, this case was different.  The government of Western Australia opted not to act on the secession, instead waiting for the Commonwealth of Australia (that is, the country’s government) to act.  The Commonwealth, for its part, believed that there was no constitutional basis for Australia itself to intervene. Casley’s act of secession was volleyed between Western Australia and Australia itself. And all the while, Casley, relying on a handful of obscure and archaic laws, managed to keep Hutt River at least quasi-independent.

Today, there are about a dozen micronations in Australia, but Hutt River is the oldest. It has 30-40 residents but claim over 10,000 citizens worldwide (with most using Hutt River as a tax haven). The principality has its own flag (above), coins and stamps (which double as a revenue stream, as collectibles purchased by tourists), and even passports and visas.

Presently, Australia still does not recognize Hutt River’s independence; instead, Australia reviews the micronation as a corporation like any other — kind of. Hutt River’s citizenry do not pay taxes to Australia, nor does the Australian government try to collect.  (They did once; Casley declared war, and for some reason involving legal minutia, Australia backed off.)  For a while, the Australian post office refused to service Hutt River, but that, too, has since been reversed.  And the aforementioned passports?  They are not recognized by Australia, but apparently, Hutt River’s “citizens” have used them, successfully, for international travel in the past.

Want to learn more? Like any good country — a delusion or otherwise — Hutt River has its own website.  A terrible, terrible one at that.  (This New York Times profile is probably better.)

Bonus fact: California has a small mining town, population of under 1,000, called “Rough and Ready.” In April of 1850, the town decided to secede from the United States in protest — and as a way to avoid — a mining tax imposed on the town and similar ones. But on the Fourth of July of that year, the town, wanting to celebrate (U.S.) Independence Day, realized that they couldn’t, as they were no longer part of the United States.  So they voted to rejoin the union.

From the ArchivesThe Principality of Sealand: Similar story — another micronation — but in this case, off the coast of England, and involving mercenaries and a hostage situation.

Related: “How To Start Your Own Country” by Erwin S. Strauss. A tongue-in-cheek “guide” to forming your own nation in your own backyard, or, according to one review, your sock drawer.

Originally published

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