By 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.”
Mr 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.”
Mr 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.
“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.
By ERWIN CHLANDA