By ERWIN CHLANDA
The disapproval of the ban to climb The Rock from 26 October next year is ramping up with comments that an unrepresentative minority is blocking access to an icon that all Australians consider their own.
The publication of a book titled A Guide to Climbing Ayers Rock by Marc Hendrickx last week has prompted adventurer Dick Smith to call it “an important book on how hard-won freedoms of adventure are being whittled away. A must read for everyone”.
And former NT Chief Minister Adam Giles is quoted: “It is an eye opener to understanding continuing cultural importance of one the Anangu’s greatest treasures and the determination of leftist protectionists who refuse to allow traditional owners to share their culture, Dreamtime and stories with Australians and all others”.
The comments are echoed in the national publication Quadrant which quotes the author: “Australians are pretty much asleep at the wheel on this. When they finally wake up it will be an unpleasant surprise to find how much and how many of life’s small pleasures they have been locked out of.
“By then, as we will likely see with the right to climb Ayers Rock, it will be too late to change anything.”
Says the author: “This book was born out of a deep boiling rage that something as wonderful and awe inspiring as the simple act of walking up a hill in the middle of nowhere to look over magnificent views of the desert could be closed down by a bunch of weak kneed passionless politicians and dead hearted bureaucrats and a few self-fish land owners who have forgotten the wise words and actions of their elders – old men who graciously shared their home and their stories with many tourists and helped make the visit to Ayers Rock something magical.
“The reputation the Rock has gained as a place of wonder is partly due to these more enlightened custodians from the recent past who also climbed up their rock.”
You don’t have to dig very deep to find out that almost everything Parks Australia and the Park Board say about the Climb is utter make believe, says Mr Hendrickx.
“It’s like they exist in another universe where history only started in 1991. This was the year Australia was first told that the locals never climb their rock.
“This book will go a long way to set the facts straight and provide a foundation to allow a debate about the Climb to finally take place.
“Here’s hoping that logic and reason win out and the proposed ban is lifted so millions more can join the seven million or so who have already climbed to the summit of this grand sandstone monolith that lies at the heart of our country.”
Mr Hendrickx thanks Bobby Roff, wife of former head Ranger Derek Roff, “for filling in details about times when the park was a more enjoyable place to visit”.
He says Mr Roff successfully managed the Park for 18 years between 1968 and 1985 “during a time of dramatic political and social upheaval”.
Mr Hendrickx referred to Anangu man Tiger Tjalkalyirri “who was one of the first climbing guides and entertained tourists into his old age” and to Lou Borgelt’s 1946 film footage that shows Tiger, Mitenjerry Mick, Lou and his mate Cliff Thompson on the summit, splashing about and dancing in the puddles on the plateau and joking about at the small pile of rocks that used to mark the Rock’s highest point”.
The author also refers to the definitive statement by principal owner Paddy Uluru (at right, Quadrant photo): “If tourists are stupid enough to climb they are welcome to it. He also said ‘the physical act of climbing was of no cultural interest’.”
By ERWIN CHLANDA