The Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Adam Giles, says Uluru (Ayers Rock) is a tourism icon like the Eiffel Tower. He has urged Aboriginal custodians to re-consider their traditional disapproval and let tourists climb it.
Tourists can climb it now, but the activity is frowned on.
Voyages Ayers Rock Resort advises: “Aboriginal traditional owners would prefer visitors not to climb Uluru. Anangu have a responsibility to teach and safeguard visitors to their land. What visitors call ‘the climb’ is of great spiritual significance to the local Anangu. The climb is not prohibited, but Anangu ask as visitors to their land that you respect their wishes, culture and law by not climbing Uluru.”
Many visitors still do climb it. The climb has killed over 35 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 older people who suffer heart attacks.
Anangu “feel great sadness if visitors to their land are killed or injured”, Ayers Rock Resort notes.
At a sitting of the Northern Territory Parliament in Darwin on Tuesday, Giles said an Aboriginal-supported climb would “lead to jobs and a better understanding of Indigenous culture”.
“I was at Uluru just a couple of weeks ago with one of Australia’s [most] famous, or greatest, golfers, Greg Norman,” Giles said.
“At the time the climb was closed due to high winds … but he, like I, could see the benefits of allowing people to climb.
“The experience has been voted as one of the world’s most spectacular and exhilarating,” ABC News reported him saying.
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”.
He wants to hear from the Anangu and start a conversation about a potential “great opportunity for the local Anangu to participate in a lucrative business and create much-needed local jobs”.
The suggestion is bound to stoke a bit of controversy and Uluru is bound to outlast it. The Rock is believed to have been tilted by geological forces into its present position well over 250 million years ago.
Written by Peter Needham