Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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HomeIssue 9Bid to keep Rock climb open by heritage listing

Bid to keep Rock climb open by heritage listing

2601 Rock Tiger climb 2 OKBy ERWIN CHLANDA
Denying visitors the view from its summit may well be a violation of Uluru’s world heritage listing, says writer Marc Hendrickx, who is preparing an application for a separate listing of the climb due to be closed in October.
He says the splendid views from the summit of The Rock were specifically noted as a reason for its World Heritage Listing in 1987.
Mr Hendrickx is making the application to the Federal Heritage Minister, Melissa Price.
He says in a letter to her: “It is possible the act of climbing, the chain, the five memorial plaques and the most photographed summit monument in the world are already protected under current world heritage listing currently in place in the park.”
2601 Melissa Price OKMr Hendrickx is asking Ms Price (pictured) to advise whether that is in fact the case, making the point that the view from the top – a major reason for the listing – cannot be experienced if one cannot get there.
He says he is seeking her support for his application, as well as that of Parks Australia and the Park Board in “protecting these internationally significant cultural items”.
This is in line with Parks Australia and the owners’ obligations under Clause 17 of the current lease agreement, says Mr Hendrickx: “The Leasee covenants that the flora, fauna, cultural heritage and natural environment of the park shall be preserved, managed and maintained according to the best comparable management practices established for National Parks anywhere in the world or where no comparable practices exist, to the highest standards practicable.”
p2285 Ayers Rock handback OKMr Hendrickx, who worked in Central Australia as a geologist between 1998 and 2001, has just completed a book about The Rock (A Guide to Climbing Ayers Rock) and the controversies surrounding it, including the “handback” (at right) to the traditional owners in on October 26, 1985 by Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen.
Five minutes later the traditional owners signed an agreement leasing the park back to the Australian Parks and Wildlife Service for 99 years.
The Northern Territory Government was so angered by the handover that it withdrew from the management arrangements.
The the attitude by senior custodians of The Rock to tourists climbing it has been the subject of spirited debate for decades.
“People opposed to the closure demonstrate that concern about the tourists climbing only emerged after 1991,” says Mr Hendrickx.
“Prior to that senior custodians were involved in guiding tourists to the summit and didn’t raise concerns about tourists climbing.
“Anangu elder Toby Naninga stated in an ABC This Day Tonight interview in 1975, that aside from the men’s initiation cave and the Ngaltawata Pole, tourists could go anywhere else.
“One early climbing guide was Anangu man and keeper of the Rock Tiger Tjalkalyirri.
“Footage filmed in 1946 shows Tiger climbing The Rock with three companions, including another Aboriginal person, Mitjenkeri Mick, and two white men,” says Mr Hendrickx.
2601 Rock Tiger climb 1 OK“One was Lou Borgelt, a Lutheran layman, motorcycle mechanic, builder and film maker who produced short movies which he showed to small audiences around the country to raise money for the church.
“The other man was Cliff Thompson.
“Borgelt’s dramatic film was restored by the Lutheran Archives early last year.”
“Mr Borgelt was operating the camera for the sequences from which these stills were taken,” says Mr Hendrickx.
Mr Tjalkalyirri is at right in the group of three (photo at top). The second image is of the iconic view of the Olgas (Katatjuta) from the summit of The Rock.


  1. Open the climb but in the original state: Take off the chain. Let Uluru be a challenge to climbers like other natural sites in the world.

  2. I am with Marc Hendrickx all the way.
    Banning access to natural features on the grounds of Aboriginal “cultural values” has become a fad in Australia.
    Other countries seem to manage tourism without banning.
    For example, Mt Everest has traditional cultural values for the Nepalese people but they don’t ban the rest of the world from climbing it.

  3. What is to become of tourism with every one slowly taking away the attraction of travelling so far to Central Australia.
    It seems the current government must be getting a lot of advice from previous Labor members, the lack of interest and support for the south again giving their presence away.
    It would be good to hear how many of the previous Labor government has been put on as over-paid consultants.
    The main outspoken person for the closure of the climb has made it a last ditch effort just before retiring and letting the rest of the traditional owners have to live at Uluru and with the consequences for years to come.
    They are showing they don’t want to work with the industry they should be very actively involved with. And to leave a moment in history he can claim to have corrected a wrong.
    As the large resort is now owned by Aboriginal people, the original argument of “they are not getting anything out of tourism” has gone through a considerable change of dynamics since the the debate of closing the climb started.
    Or was the closure just the result of a dummy spit for not getting some thing else? It would be good to get a list of those for and against the closure.
    Along with another iconic attraction in Central Australia and one that is located in Alice Springs a town screaming for more visitors, the Transport Hall of Fame has taken years to assemble this, with most of the help from volunteers and private business owners, not just from Alice but all over Australia.
    Why has it not received more support from the town? It has and will attract more visitors than another art gallery will.
    No one had to destroy existing info structure to build it. Remember Malanka, don’t let any thing be demolished till it is sure to be rebuilt or you will end up with yet another empty lot to add to the character of the town called Alice.
    And with the current economic environment?
    But to do some thing would be a start. In a convoy of trucks there seemed to be one that has been on display, seen leaving the NT over the holidays. Hopefully not.

  4. If the climb ban goes ahead, it will be interesting to read the passenger numbers on the flights direct to The Rock in about a year’s time.

  5. What are the vibrations felt in the homes and outside the homes in Alice Springs?
    Are they fraking on private farms again? If so they are hitting the rock and trying to destroy the artesian basin which will make big cracks in The Centre and maybe one under Uluru.
    This happened in Gunnedah NSW with the mining – big cracks destroying infrastructure, roads etc.
    I note these vibrations feel stronger now. The rock sturcture was almost broken years ago – maybe they will do it this time and destroy Alice Springs, and The Centre altogether

  6. Greetings from Tasmania, Erwin.
    Being a retired Cultural Historian, may I congratulate you on your article: Bid to keep Rock climb open by heritage listing.
    Very interesting article and captivatingly written. Well done.
    Dr George J Toepfer, Mt Stuart, Tasmania


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