Sat, Jul 14, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Australians rule their own micronations from home

AFP, SYDNEY

Paul Delprat poses for a photograph at his home as the self-appointed Prince of the Principality of Wy, a micronation spanning his property in the suburb of Mosman, Sydney, on June 6.

Photo: AFP

Lounging on a sofa in his flowing robes, a gold crown resting on his snowy hair and a stuffed white toy tiger at his feet, Paul Delprat looks every bit a monarch.

Delprat, 76, is the self-appointed Prince of the Principality of Wy, a micronation consisting of his home in the suburb of Mosman, Sydney.

Micronations — entities that have proclaimed independence but are not recognized by governments — have been declared around the world.

One of the latest is Asgardia, started by Russian scientist and businessman Igor Ashurbeyli, who in late June declared himself leader of the utopian “space nation.”

However, the pseudo-states are particularly popular in Australia, with the country home to the highest number in the world, about 35, out of an estimated total of up to 200.

“For me, it’s a passion, it’s an art installation,” said Delprat, a fine art school principal, as a large painting of himself decked out in full regalia with his wife and children looms above his head.

“My favorite artist is Rembrandt, who loved dressing up. In a world where we haven’t sorted out our differences, art is the international language... The philosophy of Wy is live and let live, and above all, laugh if you can,” he said.

Delprat’s homemade kingdom, filled with monarchical and historical paraphernalia, is, like some micronations, born out of a dispute with authorities.

Blocked by the local council for more than a decade from building a driveway, Delprat seceded from Mosman in 2004.

Instead of drawing the ire of authorities, he became a local celebrity — even attracting adoring fans from Japan.

The rise of micronations has not just stemmed from the relaxed attitude of Australian governments willing to tolerate the tiny fiefdoms as long as they pay taxes.

Australians’ healthy disdain for authority — a source of national pride — has also fueled the phenomenon, University of New South Wales constitutional law professor George Williams said.

“In Australia, there’s a strong streak of people wanting to thumb their noses at authority,” Williams said. “There is a bit of a larrikin [maverick] streak here, a sense that this can be a bit of fun ... and often they are hobbies that have got wildly out of hand.”

Establishing a micronation is not without its hazards.

John Rudge, the Grand Duke of the Grand Duchy of Avram in Australia’s southern island state of Tasmania, issued his own notes and coins in 1980 after writing a PhD thesis about setting up a central bank.

The government disputed his use of the word “bank” on the notes and took him to court, although the case was eventually dismissed, Rudge said.

The country’s oldest micronation, the Principality of Hutt River, 500km north of Perth, was set up by Leonard Casley in 1970 after a row with the Western Australia state government over wheat quotas.

Prince Leonard, who owns about 75km2 of farmland — an area larger than that of more than 20 bona fide states, territories or dependencies — was last year ordered by a court to pay A$3 million (US$2.2 million) in taxes.

Even so, the property reportedly makes a tidy sum for the now-retired prince — who handed over the reins to his youngest son, Graeme, last year — as a tourist attraction.

Other micronations use their realms to talk about good governance.

George Cruickshank, also known as Emperor George II, established the Empire of Atlantium as a teenager with his two cousins after being horrified by “confrontational” attitudes during the Cold War.

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