Near 600klm north of Perth in WA, in a quiet valley, sits Australia’s only Principality. The 75sq klm, former sheep station and wheat farm of Hutt River, sits just off the coastline of SW WA and is Australia’s only Independent Sovereign State and micro-nation. In a secession from the Government of Aus’ in 1970 the Principality was born in the controversy of a new Province. The secession was inspired because of wheat quota’s, unfairly distributed by the WA Government of the day, that would have proven a great hardship for the station, destroying the livelihood of a collection of Aussie families. Appeals against the fractional wheat quota were unsuccessful, so Prince Leonard seceded, and in doing so he created an independent province to survive. Survive he did, and what was to become the only Principality or micro nation within the borders of Australia. The Province, now a Principality was born.
I was a young teen at the time and recall I found the whole event quite hilarious. A combination of bureaucratic bungling on our Governments side, and an expression of independent thought and action on the side of an ordinary Aussie family. It was a world of change back then, one of independent thought and action that marked a shift in the mood of a country, indeed a shift in the culture of an entire World. The era at the time had seen many changes in our society and culture and I must admit I admired Prince Leonard.
Of course the bureaucrats of the day weren’t too happy. Former Prime Minister, Malcom Fraser, historically known as the caretaker PM appointed by Sir John Kerr after the dismissal, was majorly pissed. He wanted to crush the Principality and set in motion the means to attempt to do so… so the Tax department went after the Principality. The question of whether any Tax was due is still being played out… When is “Independent” truly independent, is still a question. Only time will tell, but the Principality of the Hutt River has in time now become much more than a thought.
When the opportunity arose to visit the Principality in our travels, we took it. And what we found was still touched by the independent thought of one man, who having stepped down in favour of his son Prince Graeme this year due to age and health, still made himself available to his visitors to his Principality. Welcoming them heartily at the royal old age of 91.
We found Prince Leonard a lively and joyful old bloke, one willing to explain the strength of the Principality and its claim to independence. Queen Elizabeth has also acknowledged their right, and their independent claim, but the Government of Aus still don’t like it much. Its not even that they… the Government… provide any services or anything towards the Principality. They trade independently, they have established their own political liaisons and truly run their own business. They have an independent mail service, and conduct their business and other matters of a country in an dependant way. It is a wonderful mystery to behold.
Visa’s to visit the Principality are easy to arrange. With the presentation of a your passport they will attend to the normal formalities of visiting another country. You can read all about it on their web site and it is worth reading the history, a notable accomplishment born of a simple want to survive.
Over the years they have developed simple but effective protocols for visitors that now even extend to an area for visitors to stay. The caravan and camping site attract a modest tariff of $5 pp pn and is located down from the “Capital City” of Nain, within reach of the permanent creek that makes its way across the Principality. It too is independent, and meanders its way through the valley to join the mightier Hutt River, feeding it and giving it life. It too is permanent, always flowing while the lands bordering the Principality run drier in the long seasons of the coastal, Western Australian desert lands. Where the sandy deserts meet the Indian Ocean, water here is precious.
Designed for the independent visitor the Principalities caravan park offers a utilitarian bathroom block and ready access to water. There is a simple camp kitchen and a small sheltered area amongst the beautiful gums of the region. Being WA, the ground is largely sand but road base area’s have been established for the camper and caravaner… there is no need to camp up in the loose sands of the region. Birds visit daily and the shadows cast by the rustling gums are long and peaceful. Like the Principality, there is a calmness about this land.
We trekked around the Principality along the sandy tracks and country roads, visiting the “Gate to Heaven” a stone monument high on the summit of Secession Hill, and was able to take in the beautiful vista down the quiet valley, the heart of the Principality. The creek is always a quiet place to contemplate in the palm of the land and for the curious you will find small touches of history. A quiet grave sitting down amongst the twisted trees in the sand of the creek. A monument to the pre-history of the Principality where a child, 15 yr old, lay in the shadows of the tea tree banks. Her story is untold, but it too is a tale of the struggle to survive in this quiet place.
The Capital of Nain is not at times so quiet, visitors the to Principality come and go treading the dusty streets of Nain, the curious and those entertained by the novelty of visits to other countries within this country of ours. The Chapel sits quiet, also in the main carriageway. Its pews hand made, like the Principality itself, it is a special place open freely to visitors. A place to sit and reflect on the history of man and life as a place of worship should be.
A visit to the Post Office and Government Buildings next door is also in itself an entertainment, as is a quiet stroll through the memorial and educational centre for Princess Shirley. But the heart of the Principality can be found in the Visitors centre, along with the memorabilia of an era and age. He sits quietly by the door to welcome those who venture to this land. His eyes are bright and interested, his tone soft and tolerant of curiosity and a sure knowledge in the pride of his land is what you walk away with. It is a memory that will stay with you for a long time, this achievement of a single man, Prince Leonard, in a struggle to survive and thrive against any challenge… with those he loves gathering around him.
A wonderful adventure into the heart of a man, against the struggle for independence and the survival of a special world and a wild spirit.