by Graham Pierrepoint
Australia is home to some of the world’s most iconic and most breath-taking monuments and sites of natural beauty – and Uluru, formerly known as Ayers’ Rock, is just one of them. The colossal sandstone rock is over 400km away from Alice Springs – and it is a proud possession of the Anangu people, who are indigenous to the area. The site was handed back to the rightful owners – Anangu – over thirty years ago, and since then, continued climbing of the rock on behalf of visitors and tourists has been largely frowned upon by the locals.
A board meeting last week, however, has announced that climbing of Uluru will be banned outright ▶, coming into effect in just under two years’ time – falling in line with requests put forward by Anangu who wish to preserve their natural landmark, which is thought to have been essential in the evolution of Australian people millions of years ago. Some refer to Uluru as the epicentre of life on the continent as a whole – and it is therefore revered not only by the indigenous, but by people the world over.
Board chairman Sammy Wilson made the announcement, advising that the move would be undertaken in light of Anangu feeling intimidated by pressure to keep the site open to tourists. In light of the decision made to close Uluru off completely to visiting climbers, Wilson stated, “This decision is for both Anangu and non-Anangu together to feel proud about; to realise, of course it’s the right thing to close the ‘playground’.” The motion comes after years of peaceful petitioning from Anangu to help protect their sacred land. “It is an extremely important place, not a playground or theme park like Disneyland,” Wilson continues. “We are not stopping tourism, just this activity.”
Despite the move to close the rock completely to climbers, fewer and fewer people have undertaken the activity in a move which is thought to be out of respect for Anangu wishes. It is thought that just 16.5% of visitors to the site climbed Uluru or attempted to in 2015 alone – a large drop which is thought to be dwindling further if surveying is to be believed. If nothing else, this move is a triumph for the protection of sacred land and habitats everywhere – and one which is worth celebrating if it is to protect the ancient landmark for centuries to come.