Uluru nonsense

So, in case you haven’t been following along, there has been talk for quite some time about closing the Uluru climb.

A whole lot of tourists, despite being educated about the issues the Anangu people have with the climb of this sacred site, choose to do it anyway. And they piss up there, and shit on the rock. They’re contributing to erosion and environmental damage. They also fall off and die, which the locals aren’t happy about, as they feel a responsibility toward visitors to their homelands.

The climb has been allowed for this long because the Government reneged on conditions they had previously agreed to when the 1983 lease was negotiated. So this is not some recent change of heart; the Government have been fucking the locals over for decades.

Talk of closing the climb draws intense cries of outrage from white conquistadors across Australia. It’s OUR land! They cry. The feeling of TRIUMPH I had when I climbed that rock, there was nothing like it! We have the right to conquer these natural landmarks! It’s a rite of passage in whitey Australian cultcha! It’s my God-given right to climb it! We flew to the Moon, and now someone wants to stop us climbing a rock? Fucking [racist expletive]s think they own the place! They’re all bludging fakers anyhow! How DARE anyone take that heroic feeling away from me! You’re racist against white people!

The climb policy was recently reviewed. Today, the determination was handed down – still no closure.

The government in their infinite wisdom has decided that they might assent to closure one day – but only if certain conditions are met.

One condition is that tourists are given “something else to do” in the Uluru/Yulara area, because deity forbid that guests should actually enjoy the incredible natural environment respectfully and learn about the local land and culture, without being spoon-fed things to conquer and toys to play with. Here’s a thought: use your imaginations, you feckless clods. Check out sunrise and sunset, travel around Uluru (an astonishing experience), take rock art and bush tucker tours, visit Kata Tjuta (even more astonishing), visit the Cultural Centre, have dinner under the stars, go to the fucking pub, and above all get over yourselves.

Another condition is – get this – that the number of climbers must drop from the current 38% to below 20% before any closure will be considered. Consider my mind thoroughly boggled. I’ve been busting a gut trying to come up with where there’s any sort of precedent.

It’s like the conversation went like this:

Anangu: Hey, we’ve been educating and educating, and still the tourists insist on climbing and shitting on Uluru. How bout we revisit that 1983 agreement where you shat all over us too? We could use a hand here.

Whitefella government: A hand? Sure, no problem! First, though, you have to educate and educate and get the tourists to stop climbing and shitting on Uluru. Do that and get back to us, ok?

Categories: Culture, ethics & philosophy, indigenous, Politics

Tags: ,

23 replies

  1. I have visited Uluru twice, neither of the times did I climb it. In honestly, this is mostly due to the fact that I don’t like heights, rather than cultural sensitivity (given my dislike of heights, cultural sensitivity never came into the picture).
    The second time I was there, the guide took me, and another person skipping the climb (she actually skipped it because of the problems described), to a spot where we could see the sunrise on the rock – it was easily as spectacular as the sunset. We also walked around the foot of the rock, getting a feel of the place.
    In other words, I agree, there is plenty of other things to do, without climbing the rock. A pity that more than a third of the visitors don’t realize this.

  2. Walking around Uluru in the 90s was an absolutely incredible experience. I had no interest in climbing and wouldn’t disrespect the landowners either way…
    I’m deeply saddened the government are not doing what they have promised. But not suprised.

  3. It is abhorrent but it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Our governments have a long long history of paying lip service to Aboriginal people, their culture, traditions and wishes. This is just another hideous example of the way Aboriginals are treated like second class citizens in this supposedly ‘non racist’ country…

  4. From troll-wrangling[Moderator note: this commentor
    is morphing their identity here.]
    Great post Lauredhel
    The climb should be stopped – but tourists have money and the locals don’t
    It’s depressing that so many white Australians keep acting like conquerors towards the Aboriginals

    • This is one of those things that makes me wonder whether I’m some sort of freak – even though as a kid I thought climbing Ayers Rock one day would be neat, when I learnt as an adult that the tribal owners felt that it was a desecration of Uluru then that was the end of that ambition, totally. As soon as I learnt that a whim of mine would cause emotional/spiritual pain to othes, then that whim evaporated. I simply cannot grok people who dress whims up as “dreams” and then act like they have a special right to see these “dreams” come true.
      Sure, one’s needs may sometimes require over-riding the sensitivities of others. A very strong ambition for a long term goal that will make a big difference to a lot of people could be a want that one might decide is worth pursuing over the opposition of others. But placing the fulfilment of a fucking whim over the deep and abiding objections of other people?
      It’s just fucking rude.

  5. I climbed it. It was the 70s. I was 12. I didn’t know any better at the time. There is no way I’d so the same now. It’s just plain wrong.

  6. Agreed – this is nonsense. I went to Uluru last year, didn’t climb the rock (for reasons of respect), and found plenty of things to do. The walk around the rock takes a couple of hours, the Kata Tjuta walk is beautiful and challenging, the cultural centre is great, and the local resort has some amazing (if in some cases very expensive) restaurants.
    .-= Rachel @ Musings of An Inappropriate Woman´s last blog ..Image: cold heart, by x-girl.13 Things I Loved and Learned… =-.

  7. Also this from the draft plan scuttles the justification for keeping it open until the tourism industry can adapt…

    The review [assessing visitors’ motivation for climbing] found that overall not being able to climb would not affect the decision to visit the Park for the vast majority of visitors (98 per cent).

    How long do they need to transition the industry for that 2% of visitors?

  8. T…tourists piss and shit on it?!

    • There are no toilet facilities built up on the rockface, Cyberwulf. That would definitely be a desecration.
      Back when only hale and hearty folks tried to climb Uluru, this would have been less of an issue – they were up and down fairly quickly and were less likely to get “caught short”. But now that so many people who go there think that they have to get to the top even if it takes them most of the day to make the climb, then gastric inevitabilities come to the fore*.
      Bet they never mention the lack of such facilities in a huge expanse of bare rock in the tourist brochures.
      * also cardiac and other circulatory conditions, which lead to most of the deaths that occur on Uluru

  9. I’m in the US. When I was in 4th grade many years ago, we studied Australia and I fell in love with the country. I was completely taken by Aboriginal art and stories. Back in 1986, I had to opportunity to see Wandjuk Marika and his sons, along with some Torres Straits islander, dance at UC Berkeley in California – it was a profound experience for me on so many levels.
    Reading this post and hearing of the total disrespect for Uluru and the Aboriginal peoples horrified me. I wonder how people would feel if climbers thought scaling St. Patraick’s Cathedral was a thrill and left their feces on the stained glass? Something tells me that they would be none too happy.
    I really do wish people everywhere would truly understand that the land is sacred. Earth is living and sentient – and everything that we need for our survival comes from Earth. The hubris of so many humans worldwide still astounds me.

  10. “I wonder how people would feel if climbers thought scaling St. Patraick’s Cathedral was a thrill and left their feces on the stained glass?” Nicely put Delphyne. Or even the Sydney Opera House, instead of painting anti-war slogans. Or if someone on the bridge climb couldn’t wait to get down (I know the practicalities of getting out of the overalls and harness etc would preclude this but if it could happen imagine the outrage).

  11. Possible (partial) solution would be to remove any climbing and safety aids from the rock?

  12. Now I am a totally a-religious person.
    But on one visit to Uluru I was allowed to spend sunset at Mutijulu waterhole [a privilege for which I am grateful and humbled] and the emotional impact was overwhelming as the place changed with the darkness.
    Whatever the locals want is more than good enough for me and I endorse all the sentiments above.
    Unfortunately I have seen this topic discussed at other websites, including one where I would have presumed a more enlightened and empathatic outlook would prevail but sadly I was wrong.
    There seems to be an ethos, particularly endemic to white religious males, that taking possession, physically or symbolically, of an animal or place is a fundamental right.

  13. We visited last year, found it incredible. Had absolutely no desire to climb it (and nor did our friends, who have much less connection to Anangu culture than us).
    The Anangu Tours we went on were terrific, offered a far more fascinating experience than climbing the rock could, and we all enjoyed the experience enormously. There is plenty to do — the walks around the rock are great, the cultural centre is well done, etc. I suspect for most tourists who are there for only a short visit, their experience would actually be improved by forcing them to experience the other aspects of the Uluru area, such as walking around the rock learning some of the myths.
    If the government is really worried about the tourist experience, they should subsidise some of the people involved with Anangu Tours and the cultural centre to provide more on site cultural information around the rock, which might also help with the ongoing chronic poverty of the Mutitjulu community.

  14. Slightly disappointed that the blog software seems to have removed my obsessive Pitjantjatjarra underlining. The first n in Anangu and the r in Uluru should be underlined, indicating they are pronounced retroflexively, with the tongue towards the top of the mouth.
    I do this not because I speak Pitjantjatjarra well, but rather because I speak it very badly. Fluent speakers don’t need the underlines to remind them which consonants are which, but I do.
    [I seem to have managed to reinsert the underlines using the back-end, dave ~ tigtog]

  15. did you collectively see the winter Olympics ad, where they show someone skiing on it (cgi covered in snow)? I think I’ve yelled at the tv over a dozen times now for that one ad 😦

  16. Visited Uluru too a few years ago; no climbing and loved the walk around it. I was amazed at the tourists trekking up and down the rock like ants – despite signs explaining Uluru’s cultural significance etc. So many visitors posing for photos waving their country’s flags, like they discovered it! I think tho that banning the climb would not keep people away; with the walk, resort etc there is plenty to keep tourists happy. I can’t believe that the climb still happens.
    .-= Nic Heath´s last blog ..Jackie French: doing her bit for ethical editorial standards =-.

  17. I think climbing anything that size and stuff would be an awesome climb, because I love climbing. (Oh, what’s this, a random cliff at the edge of a gravel quarry? Up we go!)
    I wouldn’t climb Uluru, though, no matter how awesome I think it would be, because it would be disrespectful to the Anangu people and their explicitly expressed wishes. (Also if they hadn’t been explicitly expressed, just implied; but that isn’t the case here, since they HAVE expressed themselves quite clearly.) I wanted to when I was little and didn’t know better – I saw Uluru on a cartoon or something, maybe Captain Planet, I dunno – but having become aware of the issues around the climbs? Not any more.

  18. I have a story much like tigtog’s – once I realised that the traditional owners didn’t want anyone climbing on the rock I was more than happy to let that childhood ambition go.
    As far as tourism goes I would argue that ‘showing respect’ actually adds to a sight-seeing experience, it let’s you in on that feeling of awe that comes with something being sacred.

  19. un. fucking. believable. this shit makes me so angry.

  20. Another voice from a person who finds the whole situation simply incredible.
    I also found the logic, um, well, hard to follow with the “when fewer than 20% of people climb it, we’ll close it” – whuh!?!?
    From Garrett?
    I know what he’s said about his role as a member of Caucus and Cabinet and Government generally, but still!
    A night or two after I saw the news item about it, I happened to see the video clip for The Power and the Passion and I thought (again): WTF happened?

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