There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has tested every single Australian.
Due to the numerous coronavirus outbreaks and subsequent statewide lockdowns, Australians were forced to deal with heavy restrictions, bringing the economy to its knees.
Coronavirus clusters forced states to play a significant role in containing outbreaks, with hard border closures dividing cross-border communities.
Despite the majority of cases taking place in metropolitan areas, smaller communities languished under state-based policies.
Municipalities such as the Hindmarsh Shire, which had zero COVID-19 cases, were forced to live under the same conditions as Wyndham, which recorded 2267 cases.
Meanwhile, border closures divided neighbouring communities, which had existed for decades before the British government drew up state lines.
But, what if Victoria's three western regions - the Wimmera, Mallee and the Western District - joined up with its natural neighbours, the Limestone Coast and Riverland regions of South Australia?
Well, a group of landowners in Portland almost did in 1861.
Introducing Princeland, Australia's 'ninth' state
Princeland, named after Queen Victoria's consort, Prince Albert, would cover all of the country below the Murray river, from roughly Salt Creek in South Australia to Ararat.
The new colony would cover 42,000 square miles (108779.5 square kilometres) with 40 townships, five ports and about 61,150 people.
In area, Princeland would have been larger than Tasmania, about ten times the size of Jamaica, and exceeding the whole of the West Indian colonies put together.
Dr André Brett, the Vice-Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow in History University of Wollongong, is one of Australia's foremost experts on Princeland.
He said the new colony was designed to bring together neighbouring communities divided by an arbitrary line, otherwise known as the South Australian-Victorian border.
They claimed that for every £3 of government revenue from western Victoria, only £1 was spent in the region; if Princeland were its colony, it would control all this revenue.
"Princeland was a proposal to establish a new self-governing colony within the British Empire," Dr Brett said.
"The SA border was set out in the 1830s when Europeans knew very little about the area through which it passed.
"By the late 1850s, it was clear that the border divided communities with fairly similar economic and political interests.
"Both sat at some remove from their political masters in Adelaide and Melbourne and cross-border bonds were often stronger than the ties binding them to their respective capital cities."
It is well known that in the 1850s, Victoria was rapidly growing, thanks to an economic wildfire fuelled by the gold rush.
Goldfields in Stawell and Ararat, combined with some of the nation's best meat, wool and wheat producers in the Wimmera, gave the Princeland proposal the foundation it needed to grow.
"The movement was often depicted as the idea of pastoralists who just wanted to make themselves rich," Dr Brett said.
"Some commentators from outside the area exaggerated this to cast the movement in a bad light.
"It began among Portland townspeople, and it remained most popular in Portland.
"They were unhappy about how little the government in Melbourne spent on western Victoria - they wanted roads, railways, harbour works, better access to courts and other public services.
"They claimed that for every £3 of government revenue from western Victoria, only £1 was spent in the region; if Princeland were its colony, it would control all this revenue.
"Pastoralists were unhappy with various land laws, hence the impression outside the region that the movement was just a way for squatters to make their own laws and get as much land as cheaply as possible."
Thomas Elliot Richardson, the editor of the Portland Guardian, was a leading figure in the Princeland movement.
"Thomas Elliot Richardson toured much of western Victoria and southeastern South Australia to promote the cause, undertaking one especially long tour with the poet Richard Henry Horne of "Orion" fame," Dr Brett said.
"Pastoralists were important though, especially for financial support: the Henty family participated, and Edward Henty was president of the West Victoria Separation League."
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