Hutt River principality shuts as downturn hits quirky micronation

Headshot of Geoff Vivian
Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
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Prince Graeme was still issuing visas on Friday, January 31, before he closed the borders.
Camera IconPrince Graeme was still issuing visas on Friday, January 31, before he closed the borders. Credit: Geoff Vivian/The Geraldton Guardian

When the sovereign prince of Australia’s oldest micronation stamped his last passport and prepared to close the borders at the end of last month, it was for the first time in 50 years.

“Closing the borders” in this case mostly meant shutting the front gate of the former Northampton grain and sheep farm.

When the Geraldton Guardian slipped across the border before it closed, Prince Graeme Casley was in a reflective mood.

“During the week we’ve had lots of people visiting who haven’t been here for 20 years, with stories of friendship with Mum and Dad,” he said.

The emotional impact of closing for the first time was yet to hit him.

“I’ve been busy with meet and greet so that’s been keeping me busy and focused,” he said.

“I’ve been sharing stories with people and reminiscing with people from the district who have taken the opportunity to come back and visit us so I’m not sad or pessimistic.

“I’m optimistic about taking a bit of a break from the meet and greet so I can focus and pool our resources and knowledge and get our finances rock solid.”

For 50 years since his father Prince Leonard Casley declared his property an independent nation the family has operated it as a tourist attraction to supplement farm income.

A memorial to the late Prince Leonard Casley outside the chapel at Hutt River principality.
Camera IconA memorial to the late Prince Leonard Casley outside the chapel at Hutt River principality. Credit: Geoff Vivian/The Geraldton Guardian

The constant “meet and greet” was also part of Prince Leonard’s advocacy that endeared him to many Australians.

However a 2017 court case saw the late prince (Leonard George Casley) and Prince Graeme’s elder brother Wayne (Arthur Wayne Casley) ordered to pay more than $3 million in back taxes they maintained they did not owe.

Prince Graeme said during the court case his father and brother’s bank accounts were garnisheed — had a substantial portion of incoming money seized.

The downturn in farm income has further contributed to the decision to close the gate and concentrate on restructuring the family business.

“Whether it takes six weeks or six months I’m not too sure, as things evolve we’ll see where it goes but that’s my broad plan and thoughts of where we should be,” he said.

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