The gate to the climb at Uluru has now closed permanently and hundreds of Anangu from communities across Central Australia will gather near Uluru this weekend to celebrate the historic closure.
“We will be dancing because enough people are finally accepting and respecting our point of view and we can all be proud of this,” said traditional owner and Central Land Council (CLC) Chair Sammy Wilson.Past Chair of the Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park Donald Fraser is also feeling joyous about the event. “Now we can start a new chapter in the history of our country and welcome the world to experience it through our eyes,” he said. “It’s been coming for a long time, since they’ve started the land right. And now we’re about to close and everybody’s so happy throughout this desert country area. And we are very happy that the climb is going to be closed very shortly”
According to a spokesperson for the Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park, Anangu are proud and happy to share the park with visitors and would like them to learn more about their culture, while respecting their land and behaving appropriately.
Tourists have been climbing Uluru since 1963 when a climbing chain was drilled into the rock without consultation with Anangu. In recent weeks the numbers of visitors climbing the rock has boomed with tourists flocking to make the climb before the closure. On 26 October 1985 the Hawke Government handed the Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park back to Anangu, who leased the park back to the Government and co-manage the area. The Board of the Park, which is made up of a majority of traditional owners has been planning the closure since 2010 and made the final decision to close the climb two years ago. One of the deciding factors for closing the climb was ensuring there are enough alternative attractions for visitors to Uluru to ensure that tourism continues. Since the decision to close the climb was made, Anangu have been working with the CLC, government and industry to plan alternative visitor attractions Mr Wilson says the traditional owners want more support to develop and operate tourism experiences that not only make people open their wallets but their hearts and minds as well. “You never know whether the little boy or the little girl you are taking on your tour and teaching about your culture may grow up to be the leader of the country one day,” Mr Wilson said. CLC CEO Joe Martin-Jard said the closure of the climb is one of the rare occasions since the handback and subsequent leaseback of the park to the federal government that the traditional owners are asserting their sovereignty and cultural authority. “For more than three decades, Anangu went along with joint management even though there were limited benefits and they put up with pressure to let tourists climb over their sacred sites,” Mr Martin-Jard said. “We look forward to a brighter future as we celebrate an act of self-determination” he said. Since 2005 Anagu have use their share of the park’s gate money in more than 100 community benefit projects such as pools, stores and churches, as well as education, health and culture initiatives in the communities where their families live Mr Martin-Jard explained.
A celebration on Sunday night will hear from Anangu elders, the CLC CEO, the Chief Minister of the NT and Federal Environment Minister as well as featuring music from local and national performers.
Pic top: Sammy Wilson (courtesy CLC)
By Lucy Kingston
SANTS acknowledges that the land on which our office is based is the traditional lands for the Kaurna people and we respect their spiritual and cultural relationship with their country.