Australia bans tourists from climbing Uluru | News | DW | 01.11.2017
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Australia bans tourists from climbing Uluru

National park authorities have issued a ban on the controversial practise of climbing the iconic rock. Aboriginal groups have long decried the practise as a desecration of a sacred site.

Tourists visiting Australia's red center will be banned from climbing Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, after local authorities voted to ban the practice on Wednesday.

The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board voted unanimously to ban the controversial practice, the decision will come into effect on October 26, 2019, the 34th anniversary of the land title being handed back to the Anangu people.

Visitors to the remote rock are given the choice of climbing it, but are strongly discouraged from doing so out of respect for the traditional custodians of the land. Between 2011 and 2015 just 16 percent of visitors made the climb, according to Parks Australia.

Read more: Rescue crews save three Australian men stuck on outback's Uluru rock

The 12-member board, which comprises eight indigenous people representing the Anangu people, the Director of National Parks, and representatives from various government departments, said it made the decision after consulting with the traditional custodians of the sacred site.

Tourists walk down Ayers Rock, Uluru, Red Centre, Australia (picture-alliance/robertharding)

In the 1990s almost three quarters of visitors climbed the rock, now it is less than a quarter

Not a theme park

Read more: Visitors walk a delicate line at Australia's famous rock

Chairman of the board Sammy Wilson said the site had deep cultural significance.

"It is an extremely important place, not a playground or theme park like Disneyland," Wilson was quoted as saying by public broadcaster ABC.

"The government needs to respect what we are saying about our culture in the same way it expects us to abide by its laws.

"After much discussion, we've decided it's time."

Deadly pursuit

Read more: How Australia is failing its indigenous people

Since the 1950s, more than 30 people have died climbing the sandstone inselberg, which juts up 348 meters (1,142 feet) from the surrounding plains. 

The sign at the base imploring visitors not to climb reads:

"We, the traditional Anangu owners have this to say. Uluru is sacred in our culture, a place of great knowledge. Under our traditional law, climbing is not permitted. This is our home.

As custodians, we are responsible for your safety and behaviour. Too many people do not listen to our message. Too many people have died or been hurt causing great sadness. We worry about you and we worry about your family. Please don't climb." 

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