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The Uluru Climb - Has this changed our tour?


Posted: February 11, 2020 11:47

The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board of Management decided they will close the climb to the top of Uluru on 26 October 2019. The Board is made up of a majority of traditional owners of the park.

Uluru has been sacred to Anangu for tens of thousands of years, and climbing Uluru was not generally permitted under Tjukurpa (Anangu law and culture).

Visitors began climbing Uluru in the late 1930s, and to keep people safe, the first section of the climb chain was installed in 1964.

In 1985 Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park was handed back to the traditional owners, Anangu, in an event known as Handback. The question of closing the climb was raised, and Anangu spokesman Kunmanara Lester said that while Anangu didn’t like people climbing Uluru it would be allowed for now.

In the 1990s signs were put up at the base of the climb which asked visitors on behalf of Anangu, Please Don’t Climb. As visitors learned more about Anangu culture and their wishes, the number of visitors climbing Uluru began to drop.

In 2010, the release of the Park’s Management Plan signalled the intention to work towards closing the climb. In November 2017, the Board of Management agreed that the criteria which included the number of visitors climbing falling below 20%, voted unanimously to close the climb from 26 October 2019, the 34th anniversary of Handback. This significant decision demonstrates Tjukurpa and Australian law working together in joint management. Our vision is that the park is a place where Anangu law and culture is kept strong for future generations.

Visitors are advised that climbing Uluru is a breach of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity (EPBC) Act, and penalties will be issued to visitors attempting to do so.

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We have interviewed Jo George who is one of the owners of The Rock Tour to get his thoughts about the climb being closed at Uluru. Jo set up The Rock Tour in 2006 and designed the itineraries that we currently offer. Jo has been working in the Youth Backpacker Market for the last 25 years.

Q - Have you ever climber Uluru?

A - No!

Q - What are your main reasons for not climbing Uluru?

-  The Anangu have always asked people not to. It wasn’t that hard to respect their wishes especially as I knew I was going to hang around for a bit and try and find out why. Simply though, there was a big sign that said it was offensive to them!

- I believe I have a good understanding of how the local people think and used to think now after nearly thirty years since I first went to Uluru. My decision to not climb and try and find a way to explain that there were better alternatives is one of the best that I have ever made. 

- To me it’s not as complicated as having respect for a group of people that most will never meet. It’s more about respecting the fact that they have a belief. It is the Western way to be inquisitive and try and find out why. It’s a lot easier to just believe that they have a belief and not always try and figure out why?

- It is extremely steep and dangerous. 

Q - The Rock Tour has taken over 100,000 customers to Uluru in the last 14 years, what percentage of customers have decided to climb Uluru?

A - It is a pure guess but I’d like to think it is under 5%. We have had some great guides over the years that put huge effort into explaining culture to customers. We never advertised it and when we started in 2006, people were ready to accept it and look for alternatives. It hasn’t been opened as much since 2006 either so the option to climb was a lot less than when I started in the 1990’s. I think we worked harder back then as when I started 80% tried to climb! Not on my bus though. I’d get into a few verbal scraps and a bit of bother with my bosses but I still stuck up for it!

Q - Has the closure of the climb changed any of your tour itineraries?

A - Not at all, we never had it included in the itineraries. When you book onto The Rock Tour we include the 2 hour Uluru base walk, cultural centre, Mala talk plus both Uluru sunset and Uluru sunrise.  

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