Uluru, a majestic sandstone monolith located in Australia’s Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, is a deeply sacred spot for the country’s indigenous Anangu people. In a long-awaited move to honor Anangu beliefs, which hold that ancestral beings reside inside the rock, the park recently announced that visitors will be banned from climbing Uluru, Jacqueline Williams reports for the New York Times.
At present, a sign at the base of Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, politely requests that visitors refrain from climbing. “We, the traditional Anangu owners, have this to say,” the sign reads. “Uluru is sacred in our culture, a place of great knowledge. Under our traditional law, climbing is not permitted. This is our home. Please don’t climb.”
But since climbing Uluru is technically legal, an estimated 60,000 park visitors embark on the hike every year, according to Sarah Reid of the Telegraph.
On Wednesday, board members of Uluru-Kata Tjuta voted unanimously to ban climbing by October 26, 2019. The choice of date is deliberate. On the same day in 1985, the Australian government returned ownership of Uluru to the Anangu, and both parties have held joint responsibility for the site ever since.
The Uluru-Kata Tjuta management plan states that Uluru will be closed to climbers once the proportion of visitors who make the trek falls below 20 percent. An independent study at Griffiths University estimated that only about 16 percent of visitors to the park currently embark on the climb, according to Julie Power and Andrew Taylor of the Sydney Morning Herald. But the ban seeks to do more than adhere to the stipulations of that agreement.
“It clearly says we put country and culture first when managing this place for all Australians and our visitors from around the world,” says Sally Barnes, Australia’s director of national parks, according to Williams of the Times.
Wilson stresses that tourists are still very much welcome at the park. “We have a lot to offer in this country,” he says. “So instead of tourists feeling disappointed ... they can experience the homelands with Anangu and really enjoy the fact that they learnt so much more about culture."