As of last Saturday, October 26th, 2019 it saddens me to say that the popular tourist attraction in the Northern Territory, Australia, the Uluru rock climb will be banned. The climb opened in the mid 1900’s and has drawn people from all over the world to the Australian Outback. As popular as the climb has been it has not been without controversy with constant calls for tourists to avoid climbing the rock. Most of these pleas have come from the Anangu people, the Indigenous Australians that inhabit the land surrounding Uluru. Whether or not the climb should be banned has been heavily debated in recent times and it seems as though the majority are in favour of the decision. The Uluru climb closure is a decision that I don’t support and one that I find disappointing.
I understand why the Anangu people have pleaded with tourists for years to avoid the climb as the rock is a sacred part of their cultural history. They are considered to be the ‘traditional owners’ of the sacred monolith however they have only been around for approximately 60,000 years in the Kata Tjuta area. This may seem like a long time however is nothing in comparison to the 550 million years since Uluru began forming. I have nothing against there traditional and cultural beliefs and there is nothing wrong with them asking that no one climbs the rock. However, banning the climb of a natural wonder based on the cultural beliefs of 3.3% of the Australian population is something I don’t agree with. The Grand Canyon in Arizona symbolises sacred ground for many native Americans and if the American Government was to ban tours of the site a lot of locals and tourists wouldn’t be happy.
Another reason for the ban being pushed is that the climb is dangerous. Uluru is 384m in height and the only aid you have to your climb is a chain up the steep beginning but after that you’re pretty much on your own. I climbed Uluru when I was 11, the beginning was a bit of a challenge but once you get past a chain it is easy. If you stay on the designated path and go near the edge it’s quite safe. Regardless of the safety and difficulty of the climb it is the decision of the individual whether they attempt the climb or not. Since records have been kept in the 1950’s the Uluru climb has been responsible 37 fatalities. Whilst even 1 fatality is too many 37 is nothing when compared the hundred of lives lost climbing Everest in the same time period. The climb is even closed when it is too hot or too windy so the claim that the climb is dangerous is invalid.
Through my time in school and my visit to the Northern Territory I came to understand that the idea of exclusion is embedded deep into the customs of the Aboriginal people. For example, in some cases men and women are separated, the opposite sex can’t view the segregated areas. If the Aboriginals feel so strongly about how Uluru is a sacred rock, then fine don’t climb it. However, by imposing the inability to climb Uluru on every local and tourist is an extension of their ‘exclusion customs’, something I don’t believe in and something I don’t live by. The Uluru climb is such an amazing experience, something I believe everyone should have the opportunity to attempt should they desire to. It’s a shame because the climb was definitely something I would of liked to do again but unfortunately now that isn’t possible thanks to the Uluru climb closure
Anyone that has travelled to central Australia will know it is nothing like any other place in Australia. Extreme heat, small towns separated by in some cases hundreds of kilometres. Kata Tjuta National park, where Uluru is located 25km from the nearest town Yulara and 450km from the nearest ‘large town’, Alice Springs. I was actually born in Alice Springs and my parents lived in Yulara for a couple of years whilst they travelled Australia. Whilst Uluru is not the only attraction in the national park however it is the driving factor behind tourism in the area. In the 1985 agreement where Uluru was handed back to the Anangu people, it was agreed that they would receive 25% of gate fees into the national park. The region receives 400,000 visitors each year and with the closure of the climb I would expect that that number would decrease. A decrease in visitors would have a number of negative effects with one being a decrease of income for the local Aboriginal community.
I spoke with Ella from https://herethereandeverywhereblog.com/ to get her thoughts on the closing on the rock. While she isn’t against the closing of the rock, climbing Uluru is definitely something she would’ve loved to do. Regardless of the closing of the rock, Central Australia is still a place she will visit in the future. After talking with Ella and reading various websites and other blog posts surrounding the Uluru climb closure it became clear that me disagreeing with the closure put me in the minority. Regardless of that fact I am not changing my opinion based on others.
This post is merely based on my opinions and if I have offended anyone I apologise as it wasn’t my intention.
Ultimately, I am disappointed by the closure of the climb, whilst I will revisit the area in the future not being able to climb Uluru will be a tragedy. What are your thoughts on the closure, do you disagree as well or are you in favour of the closure?