A Momentous Win For The Indigenous Anangu People of Australia

By Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
November 6, 2017 Updated: November 6, 2017

A historic decision to ban tourists from climbing Uluru (Ayres Rock) in Australia—an activity considered disrespectful by its traditional owners—was announced on November 1.

The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park board, made up of a majority of Aboriginal traditional owners, unanimously voted to ban climbers from the popular Australian tourist attraction from Oct. 26, 2019.

This decision to end the climb seemed to be a natural progression of events, with the number of visitors actively scaling the national icon has in recent times fallen below the 20 per cent threshold stated in the Park’s management plan.

Between 2011 and 2015, only 16 percent of visitors made the climb, according to the latest figures.

Uluru traditional owner and board chairman Sammy Wilson said the decision should be something to be proud of.

“This decision is for both Anangu (the traditional owners) and non-Anangu together to feel proud about; to realise, of course it’s the right thing to close it,” Wilson said in a media statement on Nov. 1.

“Closing the climb is not something to feel upset about but a cause for celebration.”

Uluru is regarded sacred to the Anangu people who have strongly discouraged tourists from scaling the rock for many years.

According to news.com.au, 35 people have died while climbing across Uluru since it started getting visitors in the 1950s.

“It is an extremely important place, not a playground or theme park like Disneyland,” Wilson said.

“If I travel to another country and there is a sacred site, an area of restricted access, I don’t enter or climb it, I respect it. It is the same here for Anangu,” he added.

Director of National Parks Sally Barnes, also a member of the Board, added a few personal words. “This is a significant moment for all Australians and marks a new chapter in our history. It clearly says we put country and culture first when managing this place for all Australians and our visitors from around the world.”

Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.