Opinion

Rock climb ban makes sense

By John Lewis

To climb or not to climb?

Uluru has been an Australian bucket list item for quite a few intrepid souls even before the invention of Instagram.

But things are getting pointy now because the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park board of management declared in 2017 that tourists will be banned from climbing the iconic monolith from October 26 this year.

The numbers of people climbing Uluru has been declining over the past two or three decades as people become aware of the cultural sensitivities of the place.

But tourist numbers to the world heritage-listed site are now increasing in a race to beat the ban as the closure date approaches.

To climb or not to climb Uluru has divided people along the lines of those who think the wide brown - and red - land is their birthright to exploit as they please, and those who think perhaps there are other people to consider.

Land ownership is a complicated business with a lot of players from the crown, to corporations, traditional owners, and battler homeowners like Darryl Kerrigan from The Castle.

But once all the legal definitions of land ownership have been sorted out, it comes down to common decency.

If someone asks you not to walk over their church - don't do it.

Interestingly, some of those who are calling for greater protection of religious freedom are now calling for the right to physically trample over the beliefs of indigenous people.

Uluru’s traditional owners the Anganu have asked people not to climb their sacred rock because to them it’s sacred.

They believe the spirits of their ancestors still live around Uluru and that the place is fundamentally tied to the Dreamtime and the creation of the world.

Now, I’m not a particularly religious person, but when it comes to physically trampling over someone’s religious beliefs then I think we should take a step back.

In fact, we should take several steps back when it comes to the start of the Uluru climb and read the signs asking people not to scale the monolith.

The traditional owners say climbing their sacred symbol is deeply offensive - and that’s good enough for me.

How about taking a hike to the top of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, or Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, or St Peter’s Basilica in Rome or any other sacred site?

I don’t think so.

But there are still those who consider it either a rite of passage or a birthright of Australian citizenship to conquer the rock.

The trouble is, Uluru’s red sandstone is easily eroded and the thousands who have lumbered up the monolith for more than 70 years clutching the poles and chains banged into the surface in the 1960s have left their mark.

Worse than just the marks of a million shoes are the other marks left behind by climbers.

There are no toilets on top of Uluru so people defecate, urinate and leave rubbish behind on the rock.

Now it’s time for people to stop demanding the right to conquer the magnificence of Uluru either as a birthright or for a selfie.

Visitors were stopped clambering over man-made structures like Stonehenge and the Parthenon years ago because they were fading away.

Uluru is not man-made, but it could be man-unmade.