The Story of Hutt River Radio

Hutt River entrance : By Bäras - Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18129722

Australia’s Best Known MicroNation is no More

Several recent news reports tell us that the half century old Hutt River Principality, a self proclaimed independent nation within Australia, has finally come to an end, and it has since rejoined the Commonwealth of Australia.  The Hutt River Principality was the oldest of Australia’s independent micro-nations, and it has served as an interesting tourist attraction for those who dared to drive out into the semi-desert areas of Western Australia.

Location map of Hutt River Province. By Seb az86556 – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7613400

It is estimated that currently there are a hundred different small and independent micro-nations around the world, with 35 in Australia alone, the highest concentration anywhere.  The Hutt River Principality was the first, the oldest surviving, and probably the best known independent micro-nation downunder.

It all began when Farmer Leonard G. Casley developed a quarrel in 1970 with the government of Western Australia over their imposed restriction in the amount of grain his 18,500 acres of land was permitted to produce.  Because of the lost income due to this huge reduction in productivity, Casley appealed to the state governor, Sir Douglas Kendrew for an increase in the farming quota on his land, which was refused.  

Official seal. By Abigbro – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42998501

Casley then responded with an application for independence from the State of Western Australia, which understandably was refused by the state parliament, though the matter was discussed also by the federal government in Canberra.  Thus it was on Tuesday April 21, 1970, that Leonard Casley, together with his Fremantle born wife Shirley and their seven children, delivered an ultimatum stating that he was seceding his property from the State of Western Australia, and from the Federation of Australia, and from the British Commonwealth of Nations, though he still honored his allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 2. 

Together with the adjoining properties of five other families making up a total of 75 square miles of farm and pasture land some 25 miles inland from Geraldton on the Indian Ocean, the new micro-nation of Hutt River Principality was born, with a total population of 20 citizens.  The main protagonist in all of these maneuvers was himself elected, as His Royal Highness Prince Leonard of Hutt, together with his wife as Princess Shirley. 

“Lord” John Davies, the first Agent General in N.S.W, for the Hutt River Province holds up the province crest and samples of its own money and stamps.
Photo Trevor Dallen, theage.com.au

Life was not easy for the new and independent nation, and difficulties were encountered with postal mail deliveries, and government taxes that were levied on goods into and out of Hutt River.  At one stage, they were routing the delivery of their international mail via Canada.  In fact over all of these matters, Prince Leonard declared war against the state of Western Australia, and this at a time when Hutt River had no standing army.

However, after this brief and unfulfilled non-event, Hutt River settled down to its main function as a tourist attraction, a geographic anomaly, an eccentric place of unusual interest, just something different in the Australian psyche.  At the height of their prosperity, Hutt River welcomed as many as 40,000 visitors in a single year. 

Stamps with commemorative postmarks to celebrate the opening of Hutt Radio. http://www.principality-hutt-river.com/gov/Post/PHR_Stamp_Catalogue.htm

 Hutt River issued its own postage stamps, and coins, and passports, and drivers licenses, and a newspaper.  They implemented their own ceremonial events and memorial occasions, and they flew their own flag, and they sang their own National Anthem.  Their official languages were English, French and Esperanto.  They established diplomatic relations with several other countries overseas, and they granted honorary citizenship to many of their supporters. 

On the radio scene, Hutt River applied to the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) in Geneva Switzerland for the amateur prefix H5, and they issued their first amateur license with the callsign 1RC.

In 1981 they inaugurated their own radio broadcasting station with 200 watts on 1050 kHz under the callsign HRBA, the Hutt River Broadcasting Authority.

Their parallel FM outlet radiated locally on 100 MHz.  These two stations were on the air with occasional programming, until the licensing authority in Australia ordered them off the air.  A small TV station was also planned.

Then too, they announced their intention to introduce an international shortwave service which would broadcast old time programming, replays of old dramas, music from yesteryear, readings from newspapers, and information from humanitarian organizations.  In 1983, Hutt River made an informal approach to Adventist World Radio for assistance and cooperation in establishing their planned shortwave service.

Hutt River Radio Promo Sticker
NOTE: Poor scan as sticker is black & silver foil. http://www.principality-hutt-river.com/gov/Post/PHR_Stamp_Catalogue.htm

However earlier this year (2020), the tourist flow began to diminish due to the China Virus, and by this time, both Prince Leonard and Princess Shirley had died.  The new ruler was their son Prince Graeme, and with a diminishing income, he closed down the Hutt River Principality on August 3 (2020), thus rejoining this novel territory once again back into the Commonwealth of Australia.  Graeme Casley also stated that he needs to sell their large farm property in order to pay the $2.15 million tax debt currently owed to the state government. 

Fifty years of novelty, idiosyncrasy, and false fame!

This feature was written by Adrian Peterson and originally aired on Adventist  World  Radio’s “Wavescan” DX program of September 20, 2020

Before you go, enjoy this short video about Hutt River from The Guardian:

Video courtesy The Guardian
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