It's Official: Climbing Uluru To Be Banned From 2019

Image: Getty Images

Climbing one of Australia’s most famous landmarks, Uluru (previously known as Ayers Rock), will end in two years after Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board voted unanimously to ban the practice from October 2019.

While climbing “the rock”, was long considered a rite of passage, with nearly three-quarters of all visitors to the World Heritage-listed area scaling it in the 1990s, the Aṉangu traditional owners requested people not climb Uluru due to its spiritual significance after the land was handed back to them in 1985.

The ban will begin on October 26, the 34th anniversary of the land being returned to the Anangu people by the then Hawke government, who made keeping the climb open one of the conditions of the handback.

In 2010, the board first announced its intention to close the climb when a range of preconditions were met, including less than 20% of visitors climb and that the cultural and natural experiences on offer are the main reasons why people visit the park.

The Board, which includes eight traditional owners and three National Parks representatives, said it is satisfied those criteria have been met.

By 2015, just 16.2% of the people visiting Uluru climbed on days when it was open — bad weather and other reasons saw the climb closed nearly 80% of the time.

A sign at the base of Uluru says:

We, the traditional Anangu owners have this to say.

The climb is not prohibited but we ask you to respect our law and culture by not climbing Uluru.

We have a responsibility to teach and safeguard visitors to our land.

The climb can be dangerous. Too many people have died while attempting to climb Uluru.

Uluru traditional owner and board chairman Sammy Wilson said Uluru was “not a playground or theme park like Disneyland”.

“After much discussion, we’ve decided it’s time,” he said, taking a swipe tourism and government officials who wanted to keep the climb open.

“It’s not their law that lies in this land,” he said.

“The Government needs to respect what we are saying about our culture in the same way it expects us to abide by its laws.”

At least 35 people have died while climbing Uluru. A chain link up the 348-metre (1,142 ft) high sandstone monolith was first attached in the 1960s and extended in 1976. The procession of thousands of people on Uluru over more than 60 years has now left a visible scar on the rock.

Wilson said the closure was not about preventing tourism.

“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 said.

“We welcome tourists here. We are not stopping tourism, just this activity.”

National Parks director and board member Sally Barnes said the decision was “a significant moment for all Australians and marks a new chapter in our history”.

Barnes said visiting the area to learn from Anangu about their culture is one of the most memorable experiences for many of our visitors.

“We’re looking forward to a future where we can all work together to protect culture and country as we should do, while continuing to provide visitors with fulfilling experiences based on the parks unique cultural and natural attractions,” she said.

The remote central Australian landmark has provided a postcard backdrop for a range of celebrities over the years, from royalty to Oprah Winfrey.

While many come to watch it change colour at varying times throughout the day, glowing deep red at the start and end of the day, Uluru gained global attention in 1980 when a couple visiting the site, Lindy‎ and ‎Michael Chamberlain, had their baby daughter Azaria stolen by a dingo. The couple were later wrongly convicted of murder and their story was turned into a Hollywood film staring Meryl Streep.

Uluru has a circumference of 9.4 kilometres (5.8 miles) and you can walk around its base.

Around 250,000 people visit the national park annually. The central desert weather can be extreme, with summer temperatures reaching 47°C (116°F) and winter nights dropping to as low as -7°C (-19°F). Just 307mm (12 inches) of rain falls there annually, with the sparse rain causing spectacular waterfalls down Uluru.

The national park is also home to unusual animals such as the thorny devil, a lizard.


    Hmm. I thought it already was banned, to be honest. I'm all for the ban in any case.

    Stupid decision. It’s just a rock, formed from many millions of years of erosion.

      "This thing does not hold significance to me, Therefore it is illegal for anyone else to hold significance to it"

      ij, King of retarded logic.

        "This thing does hold significance to me. Therefore I will force my views on everyone else by making it illegal".

        I can use your exact same logic against you.

        Funny how Christians forcing their religous beliefs on others by preventing marriage is 'bad', but this is 'ok'.

          Because climbing a rock and SSM are totally the same thing.

          Did you bump your head when you woke up this morning?

          Oh and im not christian, Im an athiest who voted yes. Git gud

      Let's all start climbing on war memorials, because they're just silly historical and cultural things.

        The comparison to War memorials is not relevant. Memorials are purpose-built man-made structures.

        Which Aboriginal tribe built Uluru?

    I'm glad this has happened. It's just a rock to some people, but it's a very important place to others. There are many places we can't just freely walk and for good reason, and now Uluru joins the club. Go find another rock to climb.

      Or we could ignore silly superstitious beliefs that have no basis in reality.

        I would agree with you if we were living in a fully rational, fact-based society, but since we are not (with an array of silly religious and cultural beliefs given all sorts of privileges) then unfortunately it would appear highly insensitive to ignore the spiritually-inspired demands of the natives of the land while respecting the demands of others.

        Better yet, You could not be an arsehole. Stick to sooking about negative things said about apple buddy boy.

          The Harbour Bridge is very important place, it is where the Flying Spaghetti Monster was born. I demand no one walks or drives on it.

          See, I can force my views on others too.

    Great news. I wonder if the board will move to eventually bring down the trail chain to further deter people.

    It is closed to climb 80% of the time and now the stats show less than 20% of visitors climb it.

    Cunning plan worked it seems.

      Did you actually read the article?

      16.2% of the people visiting Uluru climbed on days when it was open.

    Hmmm, one less reason for me to visit it I guess. Oh well, plenty of other things to see.

      I don't get why going to visit this amazing rock formation becomes suddenly less appealing because you can't climb it.

        Because that's what I wanted to do there?

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