Is ‘breaking away’ a possibility?
WHAT IS A MICRONATION?
What better way to mock authority and “thumb your nose” at the nation, than by founding your own country? This is what residents that are part of ‘micronations’ have done for hundreds of years now.
Micronations, sometimes also referred to as ‘model countries’ and ‘new country projects’, are generally small, self-proclaimed entities that claim to be independent sovereign states.
Others describe them as self-declared nations that mimic acts of sovereignty.
Micronations are typically those which are not acknowledged as such by any recognised sovereign state, or by any supranational organisation, and generally don’t hold any geopolitical power whatsoever.
Micronationalism has existed for hundreds of years as an eccentric anti-establishment mantle, before eventually taking on a distinctly hobbyist perspective in the mid-1990s when the Internet made it possible to create and promote state-like entities in an entirely electronic medium with relative ease.
People decide to create their own micronation for many reasons.
Sometimes, it is an attempt to avoid the ordinary laws of the land. Other times it is to protest a particular decision by a government or show general rejection to their powers.
In the 1930s, Australia saw Western Australia vote to leave the Federation, while state premiers routinely clash with Canberra. During the COVID pandemic, one survey found that 28% of Western Australians want to secede yet again.
Calls for secession are seen by the public to never be taken literally, but rather to indicate displeasure with policies or actions undertaken and adopted by authorities.
However, many have indeed achieved course of action, both in Australia and across the world.
Many micronations continue to exist.
Every two years, micronations from around the world meet at MicroCon. Many others discuss, compare notes and become friends online.
The Wikipedia page listing micronations throughout history identifies at least 100 across the world.
Let’s take a look at the rise of the movement.
THE RISE OF SUCEDING
Although the history of this movement can be traced back to eras like the 1800s, we must remember, the foundations of our own countries were still developing themselves at this time — meaning it was much easier to develop your own micronation back then and get away with it.
In the modern era, the 1960s and 1970s witnessed the foundation of a number of territorial micronations.
The first of these, Principality of Sealand, established in 1967 on an abandoned World War II gun platform in the North Sea just off the East Anglian coast of England, and still survives:
Others were soon founded on libertarian principles and involved schemes to construct artificial islands, but only three are known to have had even limited success in realising that goal.
The most notable was the Republic of Minerva, consisting of the Minerva Reefs. It was one of the few modern attempts at creating a sovereign micronation on the reclaimed land of an artificial island in 1972.
As the concept developed, micronations became useful as a vehicle to critique the concept of statehood.
The Kingdom of Elgaland & Vargaland was created by two Swedish artists, claiming sovereignty over the areas between the borders of both countries. It also asserts authority over other intervals, such as the transition from being asleep to wakefulness.
The Grand Duchy of Flandrensis is a micronation with claims over some territories of Antarctica, which was founded in 2008 as a way to drive environmental change in the region.
In America, the Conch Republic in Key West Florida recently celebrated its 40th annual independence celebration. It was founded in 1982 in response to a U.S. Border Patrol Blockade of the Florida Keys.
Not all micronations are so serious.
The Republic of Whangamōmona on the North Island of New Zealand emerged when regional council boundaries were changed. Upset about the potential of having to play rugby for their neighbours, the residents decided to secede. Typical Kiwis!
Republic Day is now celebrated every second January, attracting thousands of tourists.
Micronations have today become a worldwide phenomenon. However, the ease with which they can be established (and abandoned) makes it difficult to work out the total number.
One point is clear: The movement is growing and a disproportionately high number of micronations have been/are located in Australia, making it a prime location for those looking for alternative options.
Some estimates suggest that one-third of all micronations are located here.
AUSTRALIA: ‘MICRONATION CENTRAL’
Amongst the micronations sweeping the world, Australia has been front-and-center, with multiple declarations being made over the 20th century and into the modern age.
You may have heard of some of them.
Prince Leonard famously created the Principality of Hutt River in a dispute over wheat quotas in the 1970s. It was subsequently dissolved during the pandemic period, but has been highlighted for decades.
Similarly, Prince Paul and Princess Helena founded the Snake Hill Principality (located near Mudgee in New South Wales), following a long-running dispute with their bank.
The Principality of Wy (located in the North Sydney land area) was established after the local council rejected an application to build a driveway.
In Victoria, a long-running dispute over flood damage to farm properties led to the creation of the Independent State of Rainbow Creek in 1979.
The Empire of Atlantium is located in regional New South Wales and has more than 3,000 citizens – almost four times the population of the Vatican City.
An anti-taxation campaigner founded the Grand Duchy of Avram in Western Tasmania in the 1980s; “His Grace the Duke of Avram” was later elected to the Tasmanian Parliament.
In 2004, Dale Anderson sailed to the uninhabited island of Cato east of the Great Barrier Reef. He planted a flag and announced the formation of the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands to protest the passage of Australian legislation banning same-sex marriage.
In 2017, Emperor Dale dissolved the kingdom following the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Australia.
These are just a few examples of micronations linked to Australia, leading to our country becoming known as the “micronation central” of the world.
There are currently over 30 operating micronations here in Australia.
And it makes sense that this is the case.
The act of seceding from the state and declaring one’s own country is consistent with an Australian culture that celebrates larrikinism and mocking authority.
Well, that was until the pandemic came around and this spark has proven to be all but lost.
But for those who still remain true, what a better way to exemplify these (now lost) traits of Australian culture than by founding your own country?
As His Imperial Majesty George II of Atlantium notes, micronationalism in Australia stems “from our convict heritage and disrespect for authority”.
While many countries might try to put down would-be rebels either through force of arms or force of law, Australia largely tolerates the earnest and eccentric people who claim to create their own country.
This is for as long as they continue to pay tax and follow the road rules.
And this is where the legal conundrum comes into play.
THE LEGAL CONUNDRUM
At the end of the day, you might be asking about the ‘legitimacy’ or the real power that these micronations hold to be truly independent of the state they are seceding from.
And the answer is certainly a tricky one.
If you are interested in avoiding the law when founding one, the answer is: You will have a tough time.
If you are formed as a novelty that doesn’t present any major threat, continues to pay taxes and follows the road rules, you will most likely be left alone.
But ask any major legal expert, and they will say that these micronations are still bound to their host country, even if claiming sovereignty from them.
The Principality of Hutt River was never able to convince an Australian court it did not have to pay tax. As Justice Rene Le Miere of the WA Supreme Court noted in 2017:
“Anyone can declare themselves a sovereign in their own home, but they cannot ignore the laws of Australia or not pay tax.”
Other would-be nation builders have faced similar challenges.
The Republic of Minerva’s attempt to build a new state on a coral atoll in the South Pacific in the 1970s was ended by the Tongan military.
The nations of Abalonia and Taluga (located off the coast of San Diego) were both put down by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The Republic of Liberland, which claims an uninhabited island on the Danube River between Croatia and Serbia, is unable to get its citizens across the Croatian border.
As such, no micronation has ever truly become a ‘state’, so to speak.
This is because to be a state, an entity:
“Must possess a government or system of government in general control of its territory, to the exclusion of other entities not claiming through or under it.”
It is very unlikely that any micronation will ever become one in a traditional sense.
But what truly is the Australian federal ‘government’ after all?
In recent years, there has been a range of talking points that suggest the Australian government is currently a corporate entity masquerading as the real (and original) government.
If a corporation is actually the entity claiming control over the region, where does that leave the discussion? I honestly wonder if anyone in the micronation movement has taken this approach.
There is growing popularity for greater sovereignty from corporate powers in recent years, including strawmen who are challenging the legitimacy of the system.
We haven’t seen this world merge with the concept of micronations, just yet.
Even a triple merger between sovereign pushes, micronations and indigenous land rights?
Of course, if it could truly be done, the occupants would theoretically run the risk of being classified as a ‘unrecognised state’, in the same territory as Middle Eastern rebel groups or even a Taiwan-type situation.
So, at the end of the day, it is a tough one. But that doesn’t mean progress can’t be made.
It also doesn’t mean the (law-abiding) micronations couldn’t instigate other forms of change.
Prince Paul has not (yet) convinced the council to allow construction of his driveway. Nonetheless, the war has been expensive for all sides. Reports suggest that the council has spent more than $130,000 defending its actions in the land and environment court.
While the council was ‘successful’ in that foray, it finds itself arrayed against a creative enemy.
Who is the real winner in this situation?
We hear often of court cases challenging from within the system.
Perhaps it is time the onus of proof lies on the ‘government’ to direct us, instead of following their orders.
Would you consider starting a ‘micro-nation’?
What would it be called?
Make sure to leave a comment below!
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