Located in the desert of Western Australia is the Principality of Hutt River. The principality is an “independent sovereign state” in Australia, though it’s not recognized by any nation in the world. It lives in a legal limbo and has an uneasy and tenuous relationship with Australia.
Hutt River was founded on April 21, 1970, by Leonard George Casley. Casley founded the “country” in response to a dispute with the government of Western Australia over what he considered draconian wheat production quotas, as well as taxes. (It’s always about taxes and quotas, huh?) Casley and the other families who owned farms in Hutt River banded together to fight the quota, and Casley lodged a protest with the governor of Western Australia. When the government said it wouldn’t repeal the quotas, Casley sued for $52 million in damages. After he was unsuccessful and lost the case, he and his associates resorted to a British law (the Treason Act of 1495), which “allowed” them to secede and declare their independence from Australia.
The government of Western Australia determined it couldn’t stop them, so it asked the national government in Canberra for help. The then-governor-general of Australia, Sir Paul Hasluck, stated that it was unconstitutional for Australia to intervene in secession. Under Australian law, the government had two years to fight Casley’s declaration, and when it failed to do so, the province got de facto legal status on April 21, 1972. (Like I said, it’s a legal mess!)
In the early 1980s, Hutt River Province declared itself to be a kingdom, but soon after reverted to its original status of a principality. The principality proceeded to release a number of its own stamps and coins. The currency of the Hutt River Province Principality is the Hutt River dollar, which is divided into 100 cents. The Hutt River dollar is tied at a one-to-one ratio with the Australian dollar. Although few people actually live in Hutt River, the principality claims a worldwide citizenry of 13,000.
The Australian government doesn’t really interfere with Hutt River or Casley. It lets him be in his own quirkiness, so long as he doesn’t cause too much trouble. However, Australia has issued statements saying companies aren’t allowed to incorporate in the “province” to avoid paying taxes. If people do try to do so, they face stiff penalties and fines. The attitude here is sort of “let this crazy guy have his fun but we aren’t going to let it spread.” He is also currently suing the government in international court, claiming the unclaimed lands in Western Australia as his own under international law.
If you are driving up the west coast, Hutt River makes for an unusual and interesting stop. It’s really a giant cattle farm, no different from the many that abound in Western Australia. But the oddness of the “royal family” and his claim that he can time-travel make for an interesting few hours. It’s one of those oddities, like stopping to see the world’s biggest ball of yarn in Nowhere, USA, that make long road trips fun. Hutt River is located on the road from Northhampton to Kalbarri Park. You can spend the night if you want to; otherwise the country is open from 9am to 4pm. Entrance is free. Visit its website for more information on traveling there.