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Australians Fed Up with Government Creating Their Own Micronations

  • Derek Henkle

Flag for a micronation in Australia

Flag for a micronation in Australia

They're called micronations - individuals, or small groups - who try to create their own countries, while living in a recognized state. They say they comprise a burgeoning movement for people who are dissatisfied with politics - or just want to have some fun. But some are questioning their legal validity.

"We wrote and said that we were seceding from Australia," said Princess Doreen Khandekar from the Principality of Dubeldeka.

When an Australian municipality eyed Doreen and Vas Khandekar's historic property as the site for a new sewer line, the now royal couple say they had no other option than to declare independence. "So we decided that the only course available was to form a principality, that means seceding from the regulations which were imposed on us, and which were undesirable," said Prince Vas Khandekar.

The two formed a micronation - a small entity, in a recognized country, which asserts a claim of territory and governance.

With that, the two went from fighting higher authority, to, well, being the higher authority, or in their case: Your Royal Highnesses. And that sewer line? Well, at least part of it went somewhere else.

Author William Pitt wrote a book on the Australia's first secession, some 40 years ago. He explains the draw of creating a country. "The benefits to becoming a micronation are that you're independent and therefore you are not any longer under the rule and laws of the country," he said.

That's just what the Prince of Dubeldeka wants. "We could have our own currency. We could have our own stamps, postage stamps. We would have our own passport. We could have our own citizens!," he said.

But the validity of those official items, as well as the claims to sovereignty, is cause for dispute. The director of the Sydney Center for International Law, Ben Saul, says micronations are illegal - and Australia is a hotbed for them, in part, due to outdated and untested British and local laws. "These cases are so unusual and so eccentric, in many ways, I mean these are people making quite odd claims to be separate from a country which they've always been a part of, and which they have no legal right in international law to become separate from," Saul said.

"Eccentricity is something which is present in everyone. We are all mad to some extent. But we live in the sane world. We hope," said Prince Vas Khandekar.

Just several hours drive outside Sydney, we've entered what's known as a micronation. That tree line marks the border with Australia. We're here in the Empire of Atlantium. "We called it Atlantium. We started making stamps. We very shortly thereafter designed our flag. We gave ourselves titles. And we set about writing a constitution for what we considered to be the model for a future world state," said George Cruickshank, Emperor of Atlantium.

Atlantium's imperial botanical gardens consist of one bush. Capitol Hill is just a hill. And Government House is a small modular trailer, featuring bunk beds and a small kitchen area with two hot plates.

All this nestled on a 76-hectare empire, which is off both the power and water grids.

Imperial Majesty George II says the Internet was essential in allowing Atlantium to gain dual citizens in over 100 countries. "The day that we launched the Atlantium Web site we had 12 citizens, we're now in a position where we have in excess of 1,300 citizens, and we're growing at a rate of one-to-two new applicants per day," he said.

In April, for the first time, a group of representatives from around 10 micronations held a conference at a university in Sydney, where they discussed ways to push for recognition.

All silliness, and costumes aside, Emperor Cruickshank says his administration has managed to hold meetings with heads of state from Brazil, India and Venezuela. "We may well be a somewhat ephemeral entity, but if those people are prepared to sit down with our representatives and actually give them the time of day, then we have actually achieved something in the real world," he said.

What remains to be seen is whether these smallest of countries may one day become the source of either real world strife, or inspiration.

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