Uluru – frequently unanswered questions

by Roy Broff

Swim between the flags!

Swim between the flags!

Beauty, bans, fines, nonsense & superstition... National or Aboriginal park? Aboriginal culture – the invisible side... Is it really worth a visit?

After nearly 2 decades of listening to other people's contradicting stories I finally decided to hop on the car (alternative options such as fly + car hire + ... seemed well outside of my budget) and find out what it really is.

Like many others I happened to live on the east coast and had to allow for 1 week driving (return, driving alone), 3 drums of petrol and topped-up credit card. The roads are OK and the drive was fun. The desert is boring and monotonous but at least easy to steer ... Please remember – stay safe! Just hundred meters from the road, hidden behind the bushes we found several stolen & torched cars! The Wolf Creek film is a grim warning to those who forget about the dark side of our convict origins...

If you can, time your arrival for the sunset (if you're lucky to get a good one) – the rock is really impressive in red!

$25 gets you 3 days access to the park, and you follow the crowds into the stylish cultural centre (I didn't forget about the information centre – there is none...) Besides some astronomically priced souvenirs/aboriginal art, boomerangs & the likes, the rest of the building is devoted to stories. Unless you are expert stone-age historian it is very unlikely that you'll get any sense or wisdom out, nor you'll be able to read, memorize or pronounce any of the names...

The best thing about the centre is that it has TOILETS (please note - they are of non-aboriginal origin)! You may laugh at me, but they are the only ones in the park (except for the Olga's ones which are about 40 km away). If you think that you can do it in the bush (after several hours walking or climbing) – think twice! The walks are heavily patrolled by an army of rangers, not to mention the crowds of other tourists desperately looking for the same thing! Before you decide to hop over the fence and disobey the hundreds of warning signs at least make sure that the site is not sacred (most of them are) and not already an excrement minefield...

True to his explorer genes my son happily ignored the signs and climbed on one of the so called sacred sites – a rock feature about 200 m above the track. After a while he came back laughing... He discovered some mysterious artifacts: a broken beer bottle, used condom & bikini... No carbon dating was necessary.

If you are serious law-obeying tourist – please leave your CAMERA in the car (never leave any valuables anywhere else in Aus.). Huge areas of the rock are declared sacred and penalties for photographing such areas ($5000 or 6000) can make you broke in no time.

The same rule shall apply to your climbing BOOTS – the climb to the top is seriously discouraged and frequently banned for a range of often ridiculous excuses/conditions (e.g. high winds or temperatures at the summit where there is obviously no anemometer or even a simple thermometer). Failure to comply with the ban shall get you another $5500 fine... SAFETY is very convenient excuse, although the climb to the top is not a big deal for any fit person (I'm 53 and did it "hands-free" – this is no use of hands or chain). Please note – this is only so during the (southern) winter months – I wouldn't advice anyone to go there any other time!

If you're lucky to win the obstacle race and make it to the top – the Olga's views aren't too bad and there is a lot to explore off the marked path. We spent a whole day discovering heaps of interesting plants, herbs, animals, birds, bugs, holes, mini-caves, views, waterholes, crevices, rocks, etc. Believe it or not my son swam into some of the waterholes – depths can be more than 2 m. but the water is quite cold!

If you take your binoculars/zoom lenses and go to the far end you may see some real/contemporary aboriginal culture not mentioned in the cultural centre or even marked on the tourist map. This is Mutitjulu – the aboriginal settlement right next to the rock. Do not waste your time trying to see it any closer – tourists are not allowed (another $1000 fine). If you think you may get a permit – prepare yourself for a fair bit of writing, 4-6 weeks waiting and 99+% chance of SORRY answer... This seems to be the modern Australian version of apartheid...
The glamorized aboriginal culture described in the cultural centre and so many other places around this country doesn't seem to fit the reality we are not allowed to see just a few kilometers away...

So, what are our options?

Have a 3 hour walk around the base (it is not bad but there isn't much else to do now) and then get back home trying to work out why the aboriginal culture or this park never stepped out of the stone age? (think of superstition and isolation)

Or make a real National (as opposed to the current aboriginal) park & attraction where millions of people from all over the world can worship &/or enjoy whatever they like - nature, Australian (aboriginal & other) culture, lifestyle and have serious fun.
How about removing all ridiculous signs & bans, allowing free access, camping, hiking, photography and so much else. Building tourist facilities such as chair lift or tube (so everyone can get on the top), toilets, shades & shelters, climbing, abseiling, hang & paragliding sites, mountain/BMX bike tracks, water slide, roller coaster / toboggan rides, kid's playground, mini/desert open range zoo, etc. None of these shall spoil the natural beauty or endanger the rock in any way (well, not more than most other national parks) Would such option bring much more visitors & joy, and much less disappointment? How good such modern park would be for our struggling tourist industry?

What you think?

Comments for Uluru – frequently unanswered questions

Click here to add your own comments

Another Disneyland?
by: Rita Amend

Quote: "None of these shall spoil the natural beauty or endanger the rock in any way".

You're kidding, aren't you?

I really hope nobody ever considers turning Uluru / Kata Tjuta National Park into another glamorous Disneyland! This would be a nightmare.

My suggestion: For those who don't care to understand the secrets of Uluru (check my article on this site), an "Uluru theme park" on the east coast, with a huge plastic rock to climb, would be an alternative. Would save them the long drive to the boring and monotonous desert.

Uluruland or Terra Australis incognita?
by: Berroff

Dear Rita

It sounds like you’re scared from theme parks. National or theme, parks are to be enjoyed by the people, not just a few, but most of them. I don’t think my proposal has anything in common with Disneyland, but even if it does – what is your problem? Everyone in this world knows Disneyland and each of them gets 10...15 million visitors per year! Uluru barely gets 400 000. If we’re to put this country on the map (and develop some tourism in the meantime) we have to open our minds and get out of the stone age.

Happy Medium
by: Glenda Humes

Perhaps there is merit to both arguments. Disney-esque theme parks attractions such as a roller coaster, and BMX trails that tear up the desert are not what Uluru needs. I do believe that it should be a National Park or National monument for the enjoyment of everyone - the locals (the Indigenous Ones) should perhaps come out of the Stone Age to a degree - if they want to stay there, why not let them but if they wish to deal with the likes of tourists and accept money from them, they will need to compromise. They can be the Landlords of Uluru somewhat like Kakadu that seems to work reasonably well. I for one would like it to be quiet when I come to a giant monolith in the middle of the desert - let the majesty speak for itself and the wind be the noise we hear - how am I going to hear that if the sounds of screaming kids on a roller coaster drown out all noise and scare off every native creature within hearing distance? If you want a theme park, go to Disneyland. Enhance Uluru, don't destroy it.

by: Steno

The western mind is a consumer's mind. And that attitude has already brought this whole planet close to destruction. Just watch the six o clock news. No wonder the Aborinigals consider it desecration if such a mindset is being 'applied' to one of their holiest sites!

So why not acknowledge our ignorance about 'sacredness' and try to learn something, instead of using Uluru as something to consume as well? As long as we have not the faintest idea what 'sacred' actually means, we can just do whatever we like with it?!

Why going on forever to use all we find for just our own endless desires? There is no need for again another theme park, nor for getting tourism out of the stone age. There is need for understanding about sacredness. However, as long as hardly any westerner is not even just slightly bothered by his own ignorance regarding this, it is a good thing to protect Uluru from these brutal tourist's attitudes.

And maybe one day, after a big bunch of tough lessons, we will understand too what those Aborigines understood already long, very long ago.

So best not to spoil it before then. Let the place be protected against blunt ignorance, just like we protect our house by not letting the kids play football in the livingroom.

Uniting the two races
by: Paul

Steno is 100% right. Until the western mind learns to unite with the indigenous heart, humanity will continue to destroy its home. There is a sign at Uluru that points out that the white man goes there to take pictures rather than going there to listen. There is deep wisdom behind this comment. When all of us understand this wisdom, we will be ready to go forward as a race.

Not for Exploit
by: Anonymous

Uluru is a sacred Aboriginal site, not an exploit to make profit from. Taking advantage of it and building 'facilities" all over it would destroy the natural beauty and nobody would want to go there anymore anyway. It doesn't matter whether or not visitors want it; it isn't up to them, and it isn't there for other people to exploit. It's a natural, beautiful, cultural and sacred site.
Every culture has every right to protect itself, including its sacred sites, and some things, such as their daily lives, are not made for showing to tourists and putting on camera. The whole point of the cultural center is so you can see some of their culture, but that doesn't mean spying on settlements with binoculars. What if tourists came looking into our living rooms?
Australia is a popular tourist attraction as it is, and if you seriously need another theme park, do you have to build it right on top of a historical, cultural and sacred site, destroying it in the proccess? It isn't right to criticise other cultures and beliefs when the only view of it is from the outside. Uluru is a sacred site, that has been there and has been sacred for a long time, and we have no right to invade it and destroy it.

I like Ayers Rock
by: Snoman

After working with Aboriginal culture for 20 years in the NT, I can say thanks for the easiest job in the world. You get paid heaps to do nothing because they're whole "culture" (what a joke) is on life support courtesy of the Australian taxpayer. The gravy train will come to an end one day, but for now I'm on board as we sail into the mystic around Uluru. They are the most dysfunctional people in Australia. Aboriginal culture is a joke!

But he isn't wearing anything at all!
by: Berroff

Hi Snoman
Your story sounds like “The Emperor's New Clothes” (by Hans Christian Andersen)
Our proud aboriginal culture is not much different than the new clothes, but many people are too afraid to read/admit it (but would happily blame us for being incompetent...)

@ snoman
by: Steno

Yes the Aboriginals are the most dysfunctional people in the world. I'm afraid this is right. :(

Mind, tho, they were the most functional people on Earth for 400,000 years, UNTIL the westerners came to Australia. Why don't you study a bit of what happened then, instead of just looking at what's left of it today and despising it?

by: Sam


Sorry, no swearing, no abusing of other commenters. If you can't state your opinion in a civilised manner it will get deleted. B.

400000 years
by: Berroff


It looks like your 400 000 years caused too much turbulence – 5 deleted comments!
I think if you drop one of the zeros your comments would be a bit more realistic. The “functionality” of civilizations shall be measured not only by their age, but also by what they leave behind. On a relative scale ours failed to produce anything greater than boomerang or didgerydoo. Everything else seems to be invented & imported form OS. Nothing wrong – just a fact which some historians try to forget or twist too much...

by: Birgit

For the record: the deleted comment actually vehemently backed Steno's view. Unfortunately a bit too vehemently to leave it up :-).

by: steno

I don't think the functionality of people should be measured by what they leave behind, but rather by how happy they are and how harmoniously they live with each other and with their surroundings.
This, indeed, means our western culture isn't very functional either...

For me it is okay if you think it 40,000 years, for that is quite an impressively long time already. However, there sure is scientific evidence (in the DNA) that points at 400,000.

However, this topic is too large and complex to discuss it here, I think. But for those who are interested in a good and pleasantly readable account of aboriginal culture and history (including this 400,000 thing) I recommend "Voices of the First Day" by R. Lawlor Published by Inner Traditions, Vermont.

by: Berroff

I’ll try to get the "Voices of the First Day" from my local library... Have you read
"The Fatal Shore" by Robert Hughes? One of the most honest accounts of Oz history – both western & aboriginal... I seriously doubt if the aboriginal civilization can be a good example of living in harmony with nature. Many people (incl. scientists) believe that hunting with fire (burning huge amounts of forest & vegetation for the sake of catching/eating a few charred animals) is to be blamed for what is left of the lush nature that Australia had before...
Anyway, I’m not blaming neither aborigines nor westerners – we all did such a lovely mess. Now is the time to clean it up and build a better future TOGETHER.

time to build a functioning global community
by: steno

Oh, I couldn't agree more with your last remark. Moreover, I'm not idealising the authentic Aboriginal culture, and I certainly do not advocate we all go back to a hunter-gatherer way of life. But the aboriginal culture certainly showed some interesting and inspiring examples, like intentionally avoiding overpopulation collectively as to avoid being a burden for the land, or the way they raised their children (most or all anthropologists who visited Aboriginal tribes early 20th century remarked that the aboriginal children were the happyest they had ever seen), they way they dealt with conflicts, etc. etc.

I have some difficulty to believe they burned down large forests as a hunting method, for they regarded themselves as the caretakes of the land. For them there was no greater crime than going against the Spirit of the land. Besides, this way they would have killed a lot of animals that they regard as their 'kin'-- which is like killing your own family.
But I wasn't there, maybe some did... Some not so wonderful things may have happened too.

Anyway, like you sort of said: It doesn't work to point fingers in blame, rather it is time to build a functioning worldwide community together.

I'm not familiar with "The Fatal Shore". I'll keep the title in mind for when I come across a bookstore. Thx.

by: Annoyed

Please tell me that people aren't serious about putting an amusement park in one of the world's most important National preservation areas. The whole reason those parks were built was to PROTECT and PRESERVE the Australian Aboriginal culture, spiritual sites, and history. You mentioned that something like an amusement park would put Australia on the map; I don't think you realize how incredible it is that you are the only country whose indigenous population is a living, breathing version of the Stone Age!!!! Maybe all the shallow tourists of the world don't know where Australia is because you don't have the world's tallest roller coaster in the middle of the barren desert, but archaeologists, anthropologists, scientists, historians, and so many educated people rely on Australia's indigenous people to help them understand past cultures. You also mention that condoms, bikinis, and beer bottles litter the once sacred sites of the Aborigines, but you should know that until 1788 Aborigines of Australia had lived hunting-gathering lifestyles with little individual ownership or moral fluctuation for over 40,000 years. Guess what changed in 1788? Europeans showed up. White people who thought they were better than the indigenous population and thought their lifestyle shouldn't be preserved. And now, the Aborigines are so tainted by the European lifestyle that their old way of life is almost extinct. The answer to this problem? Save what little existence is left by creating National Parks that show off rock paintings and past cultural behaviors and art so that when that particular culture's lifestyle is extinct, at least there is a park to commemorate it. And you think they should build a theme park there.....
Talk about shallow.

Casting a shadow
by: Roy

Dear Annoyed

I’m so glad to hear that amongst the crowd of shallow tourists like me there are still some smart ones who not only understand the Stone age but also live in it. According to my dictionary the word “park” means “an area of land, usually in a natural state, for the enjoyment of the public, having facilities for rest and recreation...” I couldn’t find any reference for “Protection and Preservation of someone’s culture”. To me Uluru is a geological formation (world’s biggest monolith) which equally belongs to all cultures and people in this country (hence the name “national”) and beyond. As far as I know there are thousands of mountains, rivers and other places all over the world considered sacred by many different tribes, people, religions & cultures - think of Chomolungma (Everest), Olympus, Fuji, Ganges, Nile, etc. None of them has any of the ridiculous bans & fines (don’t look, don’t enter, don’t climb, don’t photograph...) Uluru has.
I don’t drink beer, wear bikini or use condoms and so wish to be excused for all the evils, pollution and moral fluctuation the Europeans caused in the past couple of centuries. They surely brought in the problems that destroyed the aboriginal, as well as their own way of life (e.g. convicts, crime, violence, alcohol, religion, war, drugs, disease, etc.), but they also made this country. It is not perfect yet, but I guess million times better than what it was just couple of centuries earlier. For such a short time the immigrants (not only Europeans) & aborigines working together, achieved much more than the locals did on their own for many millenniums. Stone age culture, thinking or technology doesn’t benefit anyone today.
Could you please tell me where to find/meet any of the mentioned “educated” people so I can improve my shallow knowledge of science, archaeology, anthropology & history and understand my past culture? Are there any aboriginal communities I could freely visit (just like almost any other place in this country) and learn about/see their culture & way of life?
I have to admit ... I’ve never seen an archaeologist in Australia...

"working together" you say... (part1)
by: Steno

Oww, you are the perfect illustration for my first post!
If you think that looking in your dictionary and conclude from the meaning of words like "park" and "nation" that not leaving beer cans and condoms at Uluru is enough for being respectful to a different culture, then you are making a mistake. Believe me, that requires MUCH more.

If you regard this present Plastic Age greedy consumer's culture as "millions times better than it was" and so the proof of achievement and progress, then you miss something. All that we as a modern culture have achieved and that those stone agers haven't, is making a lot of stuff that doesn't make us happy (our greed is still not satisfied, is it?) and to the expense of sort of everything we lay our hands on. And still we regard this as the only attitude that makes sense! How much more do we need to destroy before we realise we are destroying our own home and fellow man? Now let me ask: is a city like Sidney an achievement, or rather a cancerous tumor in the skin of the Earth?

That Uluru to you is just a geological formation, and nothing else, is the perfect example of someone who is ignorant of his own ignorance, and not even bothered by it. I'm sure this is how your limited materialistic mind sees it, but that doesn't mean there isn't more to it. Right?

I have already given the title of an interesting and very readable book - it includes a bibliography of 3 pages, so there you go. The vast majority of authentic Aboriginal communities - if not all - are already gone, I'm afraid. I wouldn't know of any where you could go to. Besides, if they are authentic, they will move around, as you (are supposed to) know.

I wasn't amused to read "Europeans an aboriginals have been working together". "Working together" you say. My! Don't you understand how incredibly arrogant that is? In just a few years the Europeans totally exterminated the Tasmanian Aboriginals - first account in history of genocide (also in your dictionary) - and almost totally devastated the whole Aboriginal culture and way of life on the main land, remember? You sound like one of those 'problem solvers' who estimated that within a few generations if not their retarded and backward aboriginal nature then at least their dark skin could be bred out them. A whole generation was kidnapped and put into something that wasn't so different from a concentration camp. This was considered 'helping' them. So now it is considered 'working together'. Hm…

Anyway, this will be my last post. Those who can hear will surely have heard it by now, and those who cannot won't learn to hear it just because I keep repeating myself. Only when you feel for yourself your attitude lacks understanding and respect, there will be a chance you will truly hear anything. The humility of recognising the need to learn always comes first.

"working together" you say (part2)
by: Steno

Now, that is not exactly the strongest point of our Plastic Age consumer's culture, is it? Rather we vent our blind and ignorant opinions about whichever subject and then truly believe we have something important to say. However, as long as we can't regard and treat the earth as a living being - like the Aboriginals did -, and treat our own fellow man and his culture with the repect he deserves - like the Aboriginals did -, we still have a LOT to learn.

Acknowledging we need to learn something from the Aboriginals, and really listening to them, and adopting what we learn from them in our way of life, all of us, now THAT would be a first act of 'working together', wouldn't it?

Appreciating the passion
by: Roy

Dear Steno

We surely have different opinions but I truly appreciate your passion. I obviously have no interest in aboriginal culture, science or history but this doesn’t mean that I’m against... I believe in multiculturalism, and aboriginal, together (on par) with hundreds of other cultures & people is the only base we can use to make this country a better place. Our history is abundant with war, murder, genocide, cannibalism, violence, greed & so on. Europeans, Asians, Americans, & Africans exterminated millions of people all over the globe, and still do it today. Australia is no exception. We can’t reverse the time and undo all bad things that happened before...
Our civilization (incl. aborigines) has millions of lethal problems. Their solution is not going back to the stone age, but in working together & radically changing our minds. If you have more time - try to prove me wrong again – see my www.peacefederalists.org

The Summit is Fantastic
by: Anonymous

Anyone who dismisses the climb as "only a small part" of the experience misses the importance of it to those of us that want to climb it. It is part of the Australian culture to climb such things for many reasons - tradition, family who have done it; life long desire and like Everest "because it is there".

I spoke to over fifty people who climbed the rock the same day I did and all had stories to tell of their dreams of climbing it and how agry it made them that the aborigines seem to close it on a whim. Many were very upset that their children and grandchildren will not be able to climb it. The friendly atmosphere on the climb is fantastic. People who would never normally speak to each other were chatting and offering help and encouragement. It was a wonderful community feel that will be lost.

I spent five hours on the rock and walked out to the far end. I spent about the same walking and driving around the base. The top of the rock is one of the most special and fascinating places in the world and I have been to 35 countries. The walk around the base is but a mere shadow of the walk at the top.

To stop the climb is insensitive and illogical but culture and politics always are. Whose culture is more important? What compromise can/should be made?

If you respect all people. Why do you not respect those who want to climb?
ALL racism. All bigotry is UGLY.

"Culture is a way of life"
by: Anonymous

I see many good points in these comments and more bad. I am of Aboriginal decent. I find the lack of care in our 'modern' society cringe worthy.

All I want is a little respect for our land and environment. And by “our”, I mean every living Australians country.

ULURU is World Heritage listed therefore warnings and restrictions are essential to preserve the site.

With increased rainfall in the Australian Desert (don’t get me started on global warming and its effects) the Rock will erode faster without human intervention.

Enjoy it for what it is but leave it as it is!

World Heritage Listed & Respect
by: Anonymous

Fraser Island is world heritage listed and we can drive all over that, and walk wherever we please.

I also think you are confusing respect for your culture with "respect my authority..." i.e. just do as we tell you. I respect your right to believe in whatever spirits or gods you want, and snakes forming the land etc. Please extend me the same courtesy with my right to believe the rock is simply the world's largest monolith and an impressive and beautiful natural feature in our Nation Park. Please also respect that it was a condition of the Australian government when granting title over the rock that the climb remain open.

It is natural to want to climb it. And there is no rational reason not to, aside from extreme (e.g. cyclonic) wind and temperature. But I am more than capable of determining if it's too hot all by myself, thank you. I managed to survive climbing other natural features in National Parks all over our country without getting blown off them or suffering heatstroke.

Anangu don't climb
by: Anonymous

The rational reason not to climb is that the aboriginal custodians ask visitors not to. Visitors who wish to learn should listen, show some respect and leave with an education. All too many just look, ignore the culture of others, and leave with trophy photographs. ANANGU DON'T CLIMB.

Back to the Stone age?
by: Berroff

Sure, we live in a world blessed with so many cultures & people are as different as the clouds in the sky. I try to respect each one, as long as I can find anything rational or good, something that makes sense. The idea of having a NATIONAL park where climbing & photography are not allowed is as ridiculous as a pub serving no other drinks but milk.

by: Anonymous

Eww..swimming in the "waterholes" ? You know people pee in those? I'm talking about the one on top of Uluru.

More overpriced theme parks for Richard...
by: El

I've skipped through most of the comments on here as after reading the original post the rest seemed to get more serious and somewhat heated. I'm not sure why, well... actually I too have my beliefs/opinions and I yes I too have taken the time to add them to this thread but seriously... Uluru with mountain/bmx bike tracks, slides and hang gliding? Ha ha ha ha that will never be as successful as the multiplex cinema they should consider! The acoustics are the best in the world under that big lump that is obviously slowing our economy down, not to mention rendering the nation culturally boring. I mean seriously, we have all the requirements for your proposal in Canberra, so why make the people of the world travel that extra few thousand kilometers when they can bust an air off Parliament House. There are vast amounts of hot air coming out of there to boost the winged crew and enough slime to grease the grass for those who like to slide. All that aside, I think it fits the location best as what you really are talking about is generating profit, rather than simply enjoying nature, and Governments seem to relate to that and encourage it. So???
All jokes aside, seriously, why would you travel to one of the most remote locations on Earth to use facilities such as chair lift or tube, toilets, shades & shelters, climbing, abseiling, hang & paragliding sites, mountain/BMX bike tracks, water slide, roller coaster / toboggan rides, kid's playground, when you can visit the culturally sprawling precinct of Surfers Paradise. Oh hang on, sorry, I just realised why... you are obviously joking? Sorry it sounded so heartfelt but I didn't think anyone could be so... creative.

by: I used to live there so don't be racist

I lived there for 5 years, went to school with them, even had a crush on one of them, so just stop.

when the aboriginal people came to uluru
by: Anonymous

It's really good but answer my question please, I really need to know .

Roy Broff
by: Anonymous

I think you & your are a very disrespectful people. I am from NZ with a bit of Maori blood (mostly pakeha/white blood) and if I was as disrespectful as you and yours were - well all I'm saying just be careful and don't be so pig-headed and a idiot!!!

Good Luck with your future!

Where's the sex talk
by: Anonymous

I wish they'd talk more about all the sex, not that I like it but it is true that people are having sex in sacred areas of this land, very disappointed in them.

My thoughts
by: DMV

What do I think?
I think you are a brainless moron. I feel sorry for your children.

Seriously? No you are not? Shirley is that you?
by: Peter C

A suggestion dear Shirley. You will love the Gold Coast or Brisvegas or how about Bali? You and your ilk will be more suited to being pandered to in the manner you feel so righteously accustomed to.

Please stay within the city limits as you fail to get 'it' outback.

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