Last November it was announced that, as of October 2019, people would be banned from climbing Uluru. The decision was arrived at unanimously by the Uluru-Kata Tjuta park board, and for fairly obvious reasons: the iconic sandstone monolith at Australia’s red centre is a sacred site for many Indigenous Australians, so the idea of tourists climbing all over it for a quick thrill and a cheap selfie is broadly considered to be an act of gross disrespect.
For many people, that’s not a strong enough disincentive. In the time since the ban was announced, the amount of visitors who insist on climbing Uluru appears to have skyrocketed from between 50 to 140 people per day a year ago, to between 300 and 500 per day in recent weeks, according to Indigenous news site Welcome to Country. Most of these are reportedly Australian tourists.
The traditional Aṉangu owners have been imploring people to refrain from climbing on the rock since the Australian government returned ownership in 1985, the ABC reports. Numerous signs located around the base of the formation encourage visitors to understand and respect the wishes of the local Indigenous cultures—with or without the threat of legal discipline.
“Although the climb is not yet prohibited, Aboriginal traditional owners Aṉangu ask visitors to their land to respect their wishes, culture and law by not climbing Uluru,” said Tourism Minister Lauren Moss, in conversation with NT News. “(I) encourage visitors to experience the beauty and spiritual significance of Uluru in other ways—there are lots of tours and experiences on offer.”
Prior to the ban being announced, data indicated that the amount of visitors to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta park who were climbing the rock had dwindled from 74 percent in the 90s, and 28 percent in 2010, to just 16.2 percent in 2015. Unfortunately, the announcement of the climb’s impending closure seems to have reversed that trend. According to a previous report by Welcome to Country, nationwide polls show that 60 percent of Australians want the Uluru climb to remain open.