Uluru climbing ban: Tourists scale sacred rock for final time

Nearly 34 years after traditional Anangu owners returned the title to Uluru, their wishes for people not to climb the rock will now be enforced by law.

The rangers officially closed the climb at 4:00 pm (ACST) and arrested more people to make the trek.

The remaining visitors on the rock will be able to stay there until sunset, they will be the last people to legally climb the site culturally significant.

Anyone else now caught climbing Uluru could face thousands of dollars in fines.

In the final hours of the Uluru climb, Parks Australia’s park rangers had to escort a man in distress from the top of the climb.

The rangers left the base around 2:00 p.m. and returned to the traveler just after 5:00 p.m.

Three white men of varying ages smile as they walk away from Uluru.
Credits: ABC News

The man said he ran out of the water, but he did not regret climbing.

Anangu’s local ranger, Tjiangu Thomas, said it had been an important day for the community and the region.

“It’s pretty emotional, having old people who made up for this long journey before I was born, to close the climb, and now they’re not here anymore, but we’re carrying out their legacy,” he said.

“It’s a great example of how the Anangu are starting to speak for their country, not just here but for other indigenous peoples across the country.”

Tjiangu Thomas sits in a vehicle at Uluru
Credits: ABC News

“I hope we can use that momentum and move forward to build a brighter future for this generation and the next generation.”

Thomas said he believed that lack of education was predominantly the reason people would still want to climb.

“I would tell those people, come out with an open mind and heart and immerse yourself in the culture,” he said.

“Once the focus is far from escalation, there will be a greater focus on culture and the environment and that’s what this world heritage is for.”

But Thomas said he was still discouraged by how many had come to climb the rock in recent weeks, knowing how traditional owners felt.

“At the end of the day, respect is an option. Obviously, it’s disappointing, but compared to school holidays, there hasn’t been a large number today,” he said.

‘I’m very happy today’
A crowd of media huddled around the traditional owners who had gathered to see the new sign marking the permanent closure.

Elder Nelly Patterson said she was relieved that the escalation had closed.

“All right, I’m very happy, ” he said in the cheers of the crowd.

Nelly Patterson is in a wheelchair and talks to the media. There is cameras around her.
Credits: ABC News

She said seeing people climbing Uluru had been painful for Anangu.

“I was worried all the time because a lot of people come up here… comes in and makes a mess for the bathroom and everything, rubbish,” he said.

“That’s why a lot of people die, everyone dies, all the old people, that’s why I worry and today I’m really happy,” he said.

“No more climbing today… close it. Thank you very much.”

Climbers now face prosecution
In a statement, a Spokesman for Parks Australia said anyone who chose to ignore the closure would be pursued and that additional Uluru patrols would take place over the weekend.

“While we expect our visitors to respect the law and the wishes of traditional owners when they visit, significant penalties can be issued,” the statement said.

“If Parks Australia pursues a felony, it could attract fines of up to $10,000 by court order.”

Starting at 4:00 p.m. Australia Central Standard Time (ACST), anyone aiming to ascend to Uluru will violate the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act (EPBC).

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park manager Mike Misso said there were a number of legislative instruments under the Law to enforce the ban.

“Under the EPBC, we can issue fines or infringement notices for people who go up and then that can escalate to take people to court if they illegally escalate to Uluru,” he said.

“Any escalation in Uluru will be illegal from today.

“We will have additional rangers during this period, during the closing period of the climb, so there will be much more personnel on the ground. The Northern Territory Police are also supporting us, so there will be a high level of compliance presence during this period.”

 

Earlier this morning, a row of tourists meanders around uluru’s base, after hundreds of climbers’ plans were messy when park rangers closed the road due to dangerous weather conditions.

The climb was scheduled to begin at 7:00 a.m. ACST, but strong winds kept hikers stuck at the base for several hours.

After a mid-morning evaluation, the hike reopened and visitors began to climb to the top.

In recent weeks, tourists have flocked to the region in a last-minute effort to climb one of Australia’s most famous landmarks.

Traditional owners said they had been frustrated and disappointed that so many had rushed and failed to fulfill their wishes in recent weeks.

Uluru is a sacred site of great spiritual importance to early Australians, and traditional Anangu owners say climbing it is not only disrespectful but also dangerous.

A sign at the base of Uluru reads "No walkers climbers climb closed due to permanent closure 26 October 2019".
Credits: ABC News

Uluru and Kata Tjuta were returned to the traditional owners of Anangu on October 26, 1985.

In Uluru’s history, at least 37 people died while climbing and the board of directors of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park said they shared the grieving process every time a visitor died.

“Tjukurpa [Cultural Law and Dreams] requires Nguraritja [traditional owners] to take responsibility for caring for visitors to their country and whenever a visitor suffers serious or fatal injuries in Uluru, Nguraritja shares the grieving process”, Said.

The dismantling of the chain and the trail is expected to begin the weekend.

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