I climbed Ayers Rock


Millions of T-shirts with that inscription will now become historical relics.
The Uluru climb is being closed today, ending what for decades was one of Australia’s most popular tourism adventures.
The Alice Springs News has covered The Rock in tens of thousands of words (google them in our archive), and as television and print journalist I covered the response to the highly divisive hand-over to Aborigines in 1985.
On October 12 we asked Sammy Wilson, chair of the board of management of Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, member of the Central Land Council (CLC) executive and director of Uluru Family Tours, for an interview.
On October 22 we supplied the questions below to the Park’s media office, saying his answers would no doubt beg further questions. We received no reply.

How many people made the decision to close the climb?


How many of them are initiated Aboriginal people?


How many people climbed the Rock this year compared to the same period last year (January to October)?


What message does that give you with respect to the popularity of the climb?


What percentage of the visitors to The Rock choose not to climb?


What percentage want to climb but cannot because the climb is closed?


What percentage of local Aboriginal people of working age and ability are unemployed?


Do you expect that number to grow as a result of the closing of the climb?


How many Aboriginal people living in or near the national park are dependent on income from the tourism industry or as park employees?


What do you say to the answer Paddy Uluru gave me, in a face to face meeting, at the base of The Rock, in the late 1970s, when I asked him about climbing (I am paraphrasing): He said if you are silly enough to climb all the way up there, go for it. There is nothing up there, no food, no water. You are allowed to know some of the stories about this place. But if you find out the very secret and sacred stories, you’d be in very big trouble. It’s the stories that are important to us, not  whether people climb up there or not.

The CLC has circulated a statement which has an embargo of 4pm.


  1. I have climbed the rock three times over the last 40 years The veiws from the top are magnificent.
    You have now denied that panorama and experience to all future generations.
    All you have really done is drive a wedge further between the Blackfellas and the Whitefellas of this land. A land that belongs to all of us – not just one very small minority!
    What will be next? Close off the Olgas – there must be sacred rocks there! Close off the Simpson – there must be sacred sand hills there!
    When tourist numbers fall off and local revenues decrease, who is expected to make up the financial shortfall – us tax paying Whitefellas with real jobs of course!

  2. Thank you for asking questions other media outlets are not brave enough to ask.
    In a week devoted to the issue of press freedom the greater issue seems to be self censorship.
    The closure of the Ayers Rock Climb represents a great loss of cultural heritage for both Aboriginal and white Australia.

  3. Hi Patricia, asking questions about issues in the public interest and reporting the answers, or their absence, that is what we do.
    No apologies. Stand by for lots more.
    This policy has earned us a readership well over 22,000 (see Google Analytics this page).
    Kind regards, Erwin Chlanda, Editor.

  4. Patricia Beattie, the basic questions that journalists strive to answer when chasing a news story are who, what, where, when, why and how.
    Asking journalistic questions can help us to assess most situations in life.

  5. Based on Keith’s comment we should be welcome to climb the roof of his house and enjoy the view, it would be selfish to stop us.

  6. I have not climbed your rock.
    Now we are not allowed to climb your rock.
    So now can you stop climbing our fences and breaking into our property?

  7. I didn’t realise people actually lived inside The Rock, Stuart. But maybe they could charge people for tours of their home as a new source of income. They might need one.
    Once all the triumphalism and virtue signalling on Facebook settles down, people will realise we have lost something quite valuable to our national psyche.
    Climbing The Rock was not about conquering, as was the facile claim, but a modern form of pilgrimage about as close to the spiritual as you can get in our secular society.
    Ordinary Australians have been been denied a simple, physical way of expressing their need to be a part of the country, and now must put up with the contempt of the intelligentsia, who of course are above such things.
    But then The Rock has been a political football ever since Paul Everingham offered it up as a bargaining chip.

  8. Just wondering what damage has been done to The Rock since people have been allowed to climb on it? Has it been attacked with hammers? Attacked with explosives? Defaced in any major way? If the NT Government think this ban will improve tourism in any way I believe they have another think coming. Why go all that way out just to look at a rock, indeed a rock that in real life is nothing like the glowing red photos you see in the tourist shops most of the time. Big mistake.

  9. Hi Erwin, I appreciate you lifting the covers to see what the real reason is. I’m sick of people being made to feel like they bare culturally insensitive, or worse a racist for asking these sorts of questions.
    Are you going to continue your investigation and push for answers? I’d really like to understand more.


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