Australia Bans Climbing on Uluru, a Popular Site Sacred to Indigenous People

Climbing the 1,141-foot-tall rock in Australia’s Northern Territory will be banned as of Oct. 26, 2019, a historically significant date for the site. On that day in 1985, the government returned ownership of Uluru to the Anangu people. As part of that agreement, the Anangu lease the site back to the government, and the two parties jointly manage it.

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Uluru has, for many in Australia, come to symbolize the struggle for Indigenous rights. Mr. Wilson said some people in the government wanted to keep the rock open to hikers, but “it’s not their law that lies in this land.”

Traditional owners do not climb Uluru out of respect, and they worry that hiking will damage the stone. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is a Unesco World Heritage Site.


Tourists climbing Uluru in 2004. Fewer than 20 percent of visitors now climb the rock, according to the government.

Tim Wimborne/Reuters

There has been opposition to the climbing ban. Last year, Adam Giles, a politician with an Indigenous heritage who was then the Northern Territory chief minister, called the idea “ludicrous.”

But Sally Barnes, Australia’s director of national parks, said it was a “significant moment for all Australians” that “marks a new chapter in our history.”

“It clearly says we put country and culture first when managing this place for all Australians and our visitors from around the world,” she said on Wednesday.

About 250,000 people visit Uluru every year, according to the park’s website. In recent years, the number of visitors wishing to climb the rock has dropped significantly, to less than 20 percent, according to Ms. Barnes. Tour operators now offer alternatives to climbing Uluru, including camel tours around its base.

“The best view of Uluru is from the bottom,” one social media user said on Wednesday.

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