Atlantium is the smallest country in Australia that you never knew existed.
The country, located about four hours from Sydney, is headed up by main man Emperor George II, aka George Cruickshank. Coming to fruition in a corner of his Mum’s backyard 35 years ago, the imaginary country is now a completely legit sovereign state with 3, 500 citizens worldwide. On screen Emperor George is likeable, and you could be mistaken for thinking the whole thing is a cute idea that went on for long enough to get its own anthem, parliament, post office and Airbnb listing. But after seeing director Craig Rasmus’ recently released short film Atlantium: The Smallest Country in Australia, you can see there’s an idea behind it. An idealistic one for sure, but why not? We chatted to Craig about his film and found out a bit more about the man we’d like to poach for our own government, right after we sin bin Pauline.
You first saw George on ABC right?
Yeah, it was one of those light-hearted stories that popped up. I couldn’t believe that there was a country that existed in Australia that I didn’t know about. It was so absurd. It got weirder and weirder the more I heard about it—the fact that he had his own currency, the stamps and the citizens around the world. I was just completely fascinated with him.
He seems to realise that people are taking him in a light-hearted way but he’s actually dead serious about it, isn’t he?
I think he’s dead serious about the message that he’s ultimately using it for. He’s got a great sense of humour, I think he’s very tongue in cheek and realises his platform is too. If you go onto the website, it’s definitely not a joke, but he definitely has fun with it and it’s a light-hearted way of getting out a serious message.
What is that serious message?
His message is about sharing a global world. He sees countries and borders now as being used not to protect citizens, but to keep poorer citizens and countries in the current state that they’re in. His view seeks to open up all the borders, let everyone go where they want to go and choose their own country, as opposed to being stuck in the one that they were born in geographically. To be aligned with a government that more closely represents what they believe in.
Did he change your perspective?
He definitely did open my eyes. As you see in the film, his view of this utopian world is pretty out there. It’s not like I believe that it’s going to happen, and deep down I know he believes it’s not going to happen in his lifetime either. But at the same time, it doesn’t mean that goals he thinks are worth fighting for shouldn’t be spoken about.
Does he think of himself as Australian?
When I did the film I was like, ‘Oh it’s a film about a really interesting Australian.’ But he’s the head of another country, so that’s kind of ironic. He is an Australian citizen, and as much as he jokes about the relationship between Australia and not wanting to start a war with them because it’d be embarrassing if they lost, he’s not trying to succeed and say he’s not a part of Australia at all. But at the same time, when you’re in Atlantium territory, which he does have control of, then you do play by Atlantium rules.
Did you stay at the Atlantium Air BnB?
We had a really small crew but we wouldn’t have been able to stay in the parliament house, it was a little bit too small. So we stayed in a nearby town above the pub. But a lot of people do go there and there’s some cracking sunsets at night and kangaroos around. It’s completely off the grid. There’s no electricity, everything’s solar powered.
Do people actually live there?
Atlantium doesn’t believe in borders, so you can’t really stick to the borders. For him, Atlantium is a concept or a political view that anyone can share, which is why his citizens live all around the world because they identify as being a follower of what Atlantium stands for, so you can be a citizen anywhere.
Aurora, the capital where a lot of the filming took place, is used as a meeting point for when citizens get together once or twice a year. They don’t have to actually live there, but when citizens go for ceremonies some of them do stay on the property.
Is the currency symbolic or do they actually use it?
You can use it in Atlantium, it’s just that there’s not actually heaps to buy. Except stamps and postcards. He’s got a very big market of people around the world who collect rare currencies and stamps, people all around the world will buy his notes. The currency is pegged to the US Dollars, so 100 Atlantium dollars equates to 100 US Dollars. He’s got quite a few people wanting to collect them because it is from a country technically and it’s a rarity.
He’s really got it all worked out, like the currency, the calendar, the Latin names, it’s super detailed.
Well he’s had 35 years to do it, that’s what blew me away as well. It’s not just the fact that he’s set up his own country—there are a few micronations in Australia that have declared themselves their own countries – but what I think made him stand apart was how long he’d been doing it and how much infrastructure there was legitimise it.
What inspired you about this project?
It feels like world politics have been going through a darker than normal period over the last few years, with a big resurgence in parties that promote isolationist policies. From Brexit, to Trump, to the re-emergence of One Nation in Australia, it’s been pretty depressing to turn on the news. George’s message of a progressive, global country with no borders is completely at odds with that trend, and while it may be unlikely to ever take on the scale that he is pursuing, it definitely felt like a breath of fresh air to listen to. What he has done definitely would be considered eccentric, but because of the message behind it all it all I ended up finding him pretty inspiring as well.