Uluru is one of the most iconic Australian landmarks. Located in the Northern Territory, hundreds of thousands of people visit the giant red rock each year to admire its beauty. For the indigenous community and traditional custodians of the area, Uluru is sacred and has great spiritual meaning. While climbing Uluru had previously been a normal tourist activity, doing so is now considered controversial, particularly since high profile incidents involving tourists doing disrespectful things atop the rock. But is any of this illegal? Let’s find out.
In the early 80s, nobody would bat an eyelid at climbing Uluru, then known more commonly as Ayers Rock. It’s just what you did when you visit the Northern Territory and surely something that was on the bucket list of many people. But since the site was handed back to the Anangu people in the late 80s, attitudes towards climbing Uluru have changed.
To the Anangu, Uluru is a sacred site with spiritual significance. They’re also concerned about the safety of the climb — nearly 40 people have died while climbing it — as well as the health of Ayers Rock itself. You can’t have dozens of people climbing it on a daily basis without the rock sustaining wear and tear.
The short answer to whether it’s illegal to climb Uluru is “no”. But the activity is highly discouraged by the Anangu people as well as those who want to preserve the site both physically and spiritually. There are signs in different languages at the base of Uluru that pretty much say “Please don’t climb it”.
There have been many incidents of when tourists disrespected the site, including the infamous striptease done on top of Uluru, which have renewed calls for a ban on climbing it. But the Australian Government has recently declined to issue an outright ban on Uluru climbs, much to the disappointment of the local indigenous caretakers.
So the choice is yours whether you want to climb Uluru if you do end up in the Northern Territory. It’s not encouraged, but it’s your prerogative to scale the rock if you really want to.
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