Media outlets around the world have reacted to the permanent closure of public access to Australia’s most iconic landmark, Uluru.
Rangers at the sandstone monolith closed the climb — a decade’s old tradition of visitors both local and from around the world — at 4pm Friday, after the ban was unanimously voted on in 2017.
A new sign was set up at the base of the rock, notifying visitors that the climb was now permanently closed, almost 34 years to the day since the Anangu people — the traditional owners of the land — were handed back the title to Uluru.
From today, climbing will be punishable by a $6,300 fine.
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The decision to ban the climb has divided Australians and those around the world for months in the lead-up to its closure.
And a final scramble of visitors yesterday hoping to be among the last to climb the rock — after months of thousands trekking to the Red Centre — has been described by a writer for The New York Timesas “a reminder that a segment of the population remains resistant to some of the decisions indigenous people make when ownership of land is returned to them.”
“They have absolutely no shame,” one reader wrote on Twitter about the flock of climbers.
“This is what white privilege looks like in Australia.”
“The lengthy queue of people waiting for one last crack at violating indigenous rights before the white government finally puts an end to it is pretty depressing,” wrote another commenter on the publication’s website.
While the ban is “a once-unimaginable act of deference to a marginalised population,” writes the piece’s author Jamie Tarabay, it is “a partly symbolic gesture that does nothing to address the myriad social problems endured by indigenous Australians.”
“Many of the Anangu themselves live in a trash-strewn community near the rock that is closed to visitors, a jarring contrast to the exclusive resorts that surround the monolith, where tourists seated at white tablecloths drink sparkling wines and eat canapes as the setting sun turns Uluru a vivid red.”
There a certain parts of Uluru so sacred that the Anangu people don’t want it photographed or even touched, writes Tarabay, yet tourists are welcomed to “tool around its base on camels or Segways, or take art lessons in its shadow.”
The climbers were like “a little ant trail,” tweeted one reader of The Washington Postwho published an article titled, “The last climb up Australia’s majestic Uluru”.
“Not for survival, not climbing up from floods or anything. Paying their way from their earnings to disrespect a sacred site.”
The Guardianechoed the sentiment of Central Land Council member Sammy Wilson in a cartoon posted overnight — written in the Pitjantjatjara language of the Anangu people — with the message “Uluru is a very important place, it’s not Disneyland” written in English.
“You tell settler Australians we can’t do something and we completely lose our wild colonial minds,” they wrote earlier in the year in another cartoon.
“As a result of Aboriginal people asking white people not to do something, hordes of tourists are hurrying in their thousands to do the exact opposite before time runs out,” the cartoon read.
Readers of the BBC’s coverage on the climbing ban have also reflected the world’s shock at Australian’s attitude toward climbing Uluru.
“I am truly embarrassed for these humans,” tweeted one reader, while another said, “It’s 2019, and the cultural white patriarchy still struggle with their greed. I am embarrassed for some of these interviewees — dripping in their own self entitlement and disrespect for the true landowners and spirit.”
It’s now time, Phil Mercer wrote in a piece for the publication, for the Anangu people to “rest and heal.”
“The Anangu believe that in the beginning, the world was unformed and featureless. Ancestral beings emerged from this void and travelled across the land, creating all living species and forms,” Mercer wrote.
“Uluru is the physical evidence of the feats performed by ancestral beings during this creation time.”
Independent media organisation NPR was one of the many to report on the closure. One reader tweeted, “If this was America, we would just add a gift shop on the top of it and continue to discriminate against the natives. Hopefully Australia treats its Natives better than we do here in America.”
Another reader commented on the “astounding” lack of respect for culture not only in Australia but around the world, while another gave the ban “a year at most.”
“For the rock’s Aboriginal owners, whose tenure here goes back tens of thousands of years, this a momentous decision, one they have dreamed of and worked toward for decades,” wrote Kennedy Warne for National Geographic.
“Imagine the euphoria felt by the Aboriginal owners when the park board voted unanimously to end climbing.”