Uluru. The sacred rock that resides in the centre of Australia, untouched by the modern conventions of western life.
Not only this, but people have died climbing. So the question is, who’s fault is this? Should the government take responsibly for the 36 people who have died? Should we put tourism first and allow people to climb? Or should we be more curious in order to make a more conscious choice.
The Aboriginal People are adamant that tourists shouldn’t climb. The sign at the bottom of the hill, says “this is our home, and we would appreciate if you didn’t climb”. Thousands of people still do. According to one ranger, either “we can’t write or they can’t read”. The Anangu people, who reside on the land find it incredibly difficult to watch people climbing the rock. Culturally, it represents a place to swap stories, known as the Dreamtime. Each section of the Rock has paintings that represent different parts of the Anangu people’s heritage. There are waterholes around the base for tribes to camp in, and the climb itself is a male rite of passage, as it is incredibly physically taxing for the climber.
The Government has remained relatively immobile on this issue. Led by Malcom Turnbull, the Parliament has stated that there are no “immediate plans” to close the climb. This is some what understandable; Tourism Australia’s dollar is around $100 billion. It makes up about 3% of Australia’s revenue. Given that Uluru is a landmark tourist site in Australia, it gets over 400,000 visitors a year.However, while the dollar brought in by the attraction is admittedly significant, closing the climb wouldn’t have a huge impact on the attraction of Uluru and the spiritual and cultural feelings it brings.
Tours, museums and sunrise visits are all an integral part of the visit to Uluru –and are all available to do without actually climbing – and these activities are encouraged by the Anangu people.
So failing the government, it is our job to learn about the history and the stories, so that we can make informed and respectful choices. Because only then can we truly appreciate the marvel that is Uluru.