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Ban should save lives as tourist drops dead on Rock

July 5, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The decision to ban climbing Uluru from October next year seems more sensible than ever after a 76-year-old tourist collapsed and died while trying to climb the Rock yesterday, becoming the 37th fatality there since records began.

The Japanese man was trying to climb one of the steepest sections of the Rock when he passed out and expired yesterday afternoon, Northern Territory Police said.

The victim was flown by helicopter to the health clinic at nearby Yulara, but could not be revived, ABC News reported.

The climb has now killed 37 people since the 1950s. A row of bronze plaques, discreetly placed near the start of the climb, commemorates those who have lost their lives.

They fall into two categories: younger people, who die of misadventure, wandering off the path and plunging to their deaths (sometimes at night and under the influence or drink or drugs); and older people who suffer heart attacks and collapse, like the Japanese tourist yesterday.

Anangu “feel great sadness if visitors to their land are killed or injured”, Ayers Rock Resort notes.

The landmark rock is an Aboriginal sacred site but despite pleas not to climb it, many thousands of people still do so each year (60,000 a year was one estimate), which is why the ban is being introduced.

Last year, the then Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Adam Giles, created a great stir by urging Aboriginal custodians to re-consider their traditional disapproval and let tourists climb the monolith. Giles (who incidentally was the first head of government in Australia to have Indigenous Australian ancestry) said the Rock was a tourism icon like the Eiffel Tower.

Ban should save lives as tourist drops dead on Rock

Giles said a climb could become a tourist experience like climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, though he made clear he was “fully aware that the Sydney Harbour Bridge does not have the spiritual significance of Uluru”.

Giles’ suggestion was swiftly brushed aside.

Climbing the rock will be banned from 26 October 2019 to coincide with the 34th anniversary of the return of Uluru to traditional owners. Quite what will happen to anyone defying the ban is unclear.

Written by Peter Needham

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