of us who have visited Uluru are struck by its enormous presence and have experienced
its almost magnetic attraction.
We appreciate that it is a sacred
place –in the same way that we sense that places such as the Sistine Chapel and
Stone Henge are also highly significant spiritual sites even without knowing
the complexities of those peoples’ cultures and religions.
too long, however, duped by the many depictions of Uluru on postcards and
calendars, and enticed by the human desire to climb Uluru simply ‘because it’s there’, many thousands of
visitors each year have preferred to believe that Uluru is just a ‘big rock’
and continued to climb it.
In late 2017, however, the joint Board of
Management at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park took the momentous decision to
enact a permanent ban on climbing from October 26, 2019.
decision came after Parks Australia surveys showed that only 16% of visitors
climb Uluru now, thanks to repeated requests by traditional owners to respect
their cultural wishes and laws.
This result thus fell below the 20%
climbing proportion agreed to in the 2010-2020 joint management plan as the
trigger for introducing a permanent ban.
While some have expressed concerns
over this decision, I want to explain why this is, beyond doubt, the right
decision, and in fact why you as visitors should decide to stop climbing from
paraphrase The Castle, Uluru “is not
just a rock, it’s a home.”
Indeed, it has been the home of its
traditional owners, Anangu, for 30,000 years.
It is this continuous cultural
connection of Anangu with their land that led to Uluru being listed in 1994 as
a World Heritage cultural site- a site with the same global significance as the
Vatican City or the Taj Mahal.
Because Uluru is sacred.
According to Anangu lore,
their people are descended from the Mala people, who lived during the creation
time, and climbed Uluru only to perform extremely important ceremonies.
It was against Mala and
Anangu law to climb for any other reason.
As demonstrated by the
reduced number of people climbing, we have matured in our understanding and
respect for traditional owners and their lore.
Even so, the 16% of
visitors who still climb represents 40,000 people disrespecting the wishes of
Anangu every year.
This is despite there
being signs at the base of Uluru which say on behalf of Anangu, ‘Please don’t
climb’. “This is the right way”.
Moreover, these tourists
climb along an important sacred route, mindlessly denigrating this precious place.
Such thoughtless and rude behaviour
simply wouldn’t be tolerated at other internationally significant places, such
as the Great Pyramid of Giza or the Vatican City, especially as we have known
for many decades ‘…the manifest dislike of this intrusion by the traditional owners’.
To those people whom have
argued that introducing the climbing ban will have major economic impacts, my
response is, “really?”
Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles claimed that the tourism industry would
be “crippled”, yet research by Parks Australia indicate that 98% of tourists
will still visit the Park, even if they cannot climb Uluru.
Added to that, one tour
company director believes that logically, “closing it … may actually increase
The peak tourism body in
central Australia also supports the ban, understanding that to respect the
Anangu’s culture and to respect their wishes for how we all treat their home,
is a much better ethical approach.
Not climbing Uluru does
not mean that your own experience there is diminished however.
at Uluru is part of Anangu’s home and every experience you have there is
therefore part of sharing their home, whether it be watching sunsets or going
on walks, it will be an authentic Uluru adventure.
Not only can you learn
about their culture, but you can actively participate in it – how authentic is
Closing the climb is not
something to be upset about, but as Anangu man Sammy Wilson says, it “should be
celebrated by all Australians.”
Celebrate as you take the
moral ground by choosing not to trespass on their sacred ground.
Celebrate that this
ethical approach will increase visitation and the success of the national park.
Celebrate that you can
have the experience of a lifetime: engaging with the oldest living culture in
Celebrate that you now understand
that Uluru is not just a rock; it is a ‘home’.