One Nation?

OK, So I have not taken a geography class since year 8, and the history syllabus was more interested in teaching me about English history than Australian. I have to admit I never even knew another country existed within Australia until doing research for this trip. After all, we are the island nation. Or are we?

HRH Leonard BustThe Principality of Hutt River is legally, or otherwise, a separate country within Australia. It is only a 75 km2 sheep station with a long, interesting and sordid history. The entire affair started in 1969 when the Western Australian government imposed wheat quotas on Leonard Casley when the wheat was ready to harvest. Leonard (rightfully), with a band of affected farmers, protested against the government, and eventually seceded from the commonwealth. I have no intention of going into a long and detailed explanation, but even the Australian Tax Office has declared they do not need to pay tax within Australia due to non-residency. I even saw the official letter.If I ruled the world

So we arrived in Hutt River Principality in the afternoon. Prince Leonard came out to greet us immediately, and to give us the grand tour of his Kingdom. There is a Chapel/Town hall, government offices/post office, souvenir shop/museum and a caravan park. We even had our passports stamped, as ‘officially’ we had left Australia and arrived in a new country. Hutt River has its own stamps, currency, flag, passports (how official they actually are is on a case by case basis), national anthem and monarchy.

Prince Lenny is an interesting and amusing fellow. He is incredibly smart, and passionate about all sorts of things political and scientific. He even has an honorary doctorate in Political Science from the University of Berkeley in the USA. I admire people that follow through on their passions and beliefs. But at 87 he is getting on a bit, with his overplayed guided tour. On our first tour, he didn’t stop or miss a beat, despite Mike and I (his only adult audience) stopping to assist a howling Coby who had tripped over a rock and grazed her knee. Our second day there, we badly timed our post office visit (to buy stamps and postcards) with the arrival of another enthused tourist. Somehow we got caught up in the same tour again, which we politely listened to in its entirety. Even at the end, when he asked us to sign the visitor’s book, he didn’t tweak that we had had several conversations the previous day.

The caravan park at Hutt River is one of the best value parks we have stayed in during our travels, with clean toilets, hot water showers, picnic tables and washing up sinks. There is an extra charge for powered sites, but they don’t charge for children. Although the population of flies well outweighs the human population at any given time (we were the only people camping there for the two days), Hutt River is worth visiting just for the eccentric value.

Leaning Tower of GinginGravity Discovery CentreI just have to mention one or two fun things we did on our way to Hutt River. Being the Boffin that I am, I really wanted to visit the Gravity Discovery Centre at GinGin, north of Perth. Currently there are around 6 Gravitation Centres in various stages of build around the world. The aim of the network is to detect gravity waves from exploding stars and black holes to learn more about our origins. It will also double as detection equipment of earthquakes, but this is not its main purpose. This centre is the only one in the southern hemisphere, and is essential to make all the detections and calculations accurate. We got to see all sorts of educational and interesting science displays, not necessarily related to gravity. The highlight for the kids was to climb the 13 storey Leaning Tower of GinGin, to launch water balloons and to double check Newtons Theory of Gravity. While it probably doesn’t have too much scientific merit, it was a lot of fun.

Geraldton Promenade WaterPlayDino dressup at West Oz Museum - GeraldtonWe also stayed a couple of nights in Geraldton. Historically just an industrial town and port, Geraldton is going through a transformation to make it a more picturesque and touristy town. The railway line use to pass along the foreshore just next to the beaches, and was quite the eyesore. This has all recently been diverted and replaced with parks, cycle paths, playgrounds and a lovely free water fountain park that is a dream for kids on hot days. We also visited the Geraldton branch of the museum of Western Australia, which had interesting information and artefacts on the Dutch shipwrecks north of Geraldton, and a great kid’s area with dinosaur dress ups that was a real hit with the Coby and Rhys.

Geraldton will be our last big town for a while, as we head up the deserted coast. Next stop is the rugged Batavia coast, and hopefully some great shipwreck stories and national park experiences.

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