Monday, July 16, 2012

Housing Estate Splits from New South Wales, Joins “Free State of Australia”

Members of an illegal housing complex in the municipality of Shoalhaven, on the southeastern coast of Australia, have responded to an order for their eviction by declaring secession from the state of New South Wales.  Residents of the community, called the Jerberra Estate, were told by the Shoalhaven Council that they needed to vacate, because the homes were built without the proper zoning permits.  So now the inhabitants of the development claim that they have split with New South Wales and have joined the Free State of Australia (F.S.A.), a micronation founded as a 100-person commune far to the north, in the rural Shire (municipality) of Kyogle, in northeastern New South Wales, near the Queensland border.  (See my full article on the F.S.A. from last year in this blog.)

Location of Shoalhaven in New South Wales, Australia.

The F.S.A.’s founder is a former Protestant minister who goes by the single name “John” or “Jonathan” (though he spells it with a lower-case j, which I refuse to indulge) and operates his 22-home intentional community in loose association with something called the Zeitgeist Movement, an anarchist, technocratic ideology which the New York Times, in 2009, described as “a wholesale reimagining of civilization, as if Karl Marx and Carl Sagan had hired John Lennon from his ‘Imagine’ days to do no less than redesign the underlying structure of planetary life.”  (Zeitgeist can also claim as a sort-of adherent Robin van Helsum, the Dutch, not-a-quite-a-feral-child “Forest Boy” that made a media splash in Germany last month—discussed in this blog at the time.)

Elder “Jonathan” with some of his followers at the Free State of Australia

It is not known what Jonathan and the original F.S.A. community thinks of the Jerberra Estates declaration.  When F.S.A. first declared independence, it sounded like they were declaring independence from Australia as a whole—like the Principality of Hutt River, near Perth, Western Australia.  But Jerberra Estate seems to be hoping for an arrangement by which the F.S.A. is a loose archipelago of scraps of land across Australia which form their own, dispersed constituent state of the dominion.  Think of it, perhaps, as a federation of unaffiliated territories.  Needless to say, Australia’s federal government is probably not that keen on the idea (if they notice this development at all)—though Australia is famously tolerant of small micronation movements.  Hutt River, for example, has operated its nice chunk of ranchland unmolested for decades.

The flag of the Principality of Hutt River

Interestingly enough, just to the south of Jerberra and Shoalhaven is a coastal wedge of land called the Jervis Bay Territory, which itself has an odd relationship to the Australian federation.  Maps will sometimes show it as part of New South Wales, but in fact in 1915 the state ceded it to the Australian Capital Territory (A.C.T.)—the inland district which surrounds the national capital, Canberra, as its own separate sort-of state (much like the District of Columbia (D.C.) in the United States).  The idea was that the A.C.T. should have “access to the sea”—even though the A.C.T. and Jervis Bay are separated by quite a bit of land.  A.C.T. administers Jervis Bay, but technically it is its own constituent part of the Commonwealth.  I wonder, though, why it matters whether the A.C.T. needs access to the sea in the first place?  No one worries that D.C. does not have a warm-water port, and no one frets that the Distrito Federal which surrounds Mexico’s capital is dangerously landlocked.  Perhaps it was feared that, during some future break-up of the Australian federation, New South Wales would try to go all Biafra War on the A.C.T. and blockade it into starvation.  But, in such a Mad Max scenario, it does seem that an aggressive New South Wales would be smart enough to pick off tiny Jervis Bay first.  What resistance could they put up?  Clearly Canberra needs a whole defensible corridor to the sea.  After all, you can’t be too careful.  Those New South Welsh can get kind of wacko.

Locations of the Australian Capital Territory (A.C.T.), Jervis Bay Territory, and surrounding New South Wales

Back to Jerberra Estates, however: Shoalhaven Council, for its part, claims to be unable to comment on the case since it is before the Land and Environment Court.

Flag of the Australian Capital Territory.  Jervis Bay has no flag.

The most distressing part of all this is that the Free State of Australia still, as far as I can tell, has no flag.  I know they’re against the money system, but they can’t be against flags, can they?  If anyone knows what an F.S.A. flag looks like, please let me know.

[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  The book, which contains dozens of maps and over 500 flags, is now in the layout phase and should be on shelves, and available on Amazon, by early fall 2014.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even though you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook.]

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