Hutt River sovereign citizens WA
Wayne Glew and Principality of Hutt River's monarch Prince Leonard (Image: Wayne Glew/Facebook/AAP Image/Principality of Hutt River, Honourable Hugh Brown)

For as long as Western Australia has existed, there have been efforts to break away from the Commonwealth.

Various attempts have been made through its history to release the resource-rich part of Australia from its state shackles. In November last year, 28% of residents polled in the West Australian newspaper supported a “WAxit”.

There are some, though, who aren’t waiting for official recognition. The state is overrepresented with those who are taking matters into their own hands by starting their own independent nation states or joining the sovereign citizen movement in defiance of the laws of the land.

Joel Hill is the host of the The Conditional Release Program, an Australian podcast that covers “cults, crims and con artists”, and he links this prevalence to the state’s history of attempted secessions.

“Why are they the only state that wants to secede? You don’t have a new Victralia movement…” he said via Twitter direct message.

Here are some of WA’s best known sovereign citizens and micronations.

Principality of Hutt River

Australia’s best known micronation was founded in WA’s mid-west over a dispute about the Australian government’s wheat quotas in 1970.

While never being recognised by the government, the nation issued currency, passports, stamps, even offering diplomatic postings to some citizens.

In 1977, the principality even declared war on Australia in a harebrained attempt to establish itself as a nation (despite not having an army).

In August last year, “Prince” Graeme Casley dissolved the micronation after half a century — just a few years after his father, the principality’s founding regent Prince Leonard, had passed away.

Wayne Glew and the SovCits

Former police officer Wayne Glew has become a figurehead of Australia’s sovereign citizen movement, a loose constellation of people who believe most laws do not apply to them.

Citing various parts of the Magna Carta, Glew refuses to pay rates, taxes, legal fees, or follow any law that is an imposition on him.

In 2018, the City of Greater Geraldton seized and sold Glew’s farm in spite of his efforts to stop the council by dumping a mound of dirt on the entrance to his property.

Even with his repeated failures to win in court, Glew has garnered a large online following, with more than 10,000 people following his personal Facebook account. Multiple times a week, he posts long, rambling videos about his misinterpretations of domestic and international law.

His following grew during the 2020 pandemic as anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers latched on to sovereign citizen ideology as a method to try to subvert public health restrictions.

New Westralia

In the middle of last year, a long-haired, tattooed rapper hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota, live-streamed himself breaking down the door of a courthouse in the small town of York and declared the state government overthrown.

Wade Guerin is one of the leaders of “New Westralia”, a group that, according to its website, seeks to start its own sovereign nation that will be a “world-class destination for spiritual vitality, enlightenment, meditation, wonder and expression on the great adventure of life”.

Despite the movement’s opposition to treachery, Guerin and three other members of the group broke into the York courthouse and declared it part of New Westralia on June 5, 2020. After an hour’s negotiation, police arrested the insurgents for trespass and criminal damage.

It appears their movement is finding new members. Last week, an 18-year-old Busselton resident and sovereign citizen Phoebe Lee Bennett was convicted for speeding after she refused to answer to her name.

After the magistrate informed the young woman that she would be deemed absent if she did not answer, Bennett repeatedly said “we object” over the prosecutor and tried to read out a statement about international conventions.

“Let the record show that you will not accept evidence,” Bennett said.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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