NAIDOC week – Lesson of Respect. Please don’t climb Uluru

Keeping it raw, I promised to be authentic on this journey, with the initial point of delving into this world of blogging to be brave and have tough, yet important conversations, that nobody wants to talk about. So, sometimes that means I get a little preachy, I’ll own that. So be it. Because there’s this thing that I’ve become increasingly aware of; ignorance is bliss. Like a buffer, it has the danger of encircling (and sometimes encapsulating) our ego. As we grow we ought to learn more and become better at being human. But mostly there’s this ego blocking any new learnings. Also known wisely as the era of entitlement.

How entitled are you? Now that is a pretty difficult thing to measure. Sure, do you let go of those insignificances? Do you roll your eyes and laugh at your own ‘first world problems’? But there’s a flip here? Not knowing is one thing. But knowing and not using your voice measures equally as ignorant. Like the old adage, if you’re not part of the solution…

Open your heart, eyes and soul and you may just learn a thing or two in this marvel of a world, which will have you at your knees.

It just happens to be NAIDOC week and I just happen to be dropping my first born (my second heart beat) in Central Australia for an outback adventure made of dreams. In awe, while our boots stand covered in the magnificent red dirt at the base still kilometres away of her majesty Uluru. In the season of Wari – to us humble white folk that’s the cold season of winter. Even during the cold season the temperature hits 27 degrees on our magical acquaintance. The sunshine: epic. Yet here I was again, all starry-eyed, not a cloud in sight, amongst the blue skies. At this point, I’d only just arrived at the Sunrise and Sunset Carpark.

This year’s NAIDOC week theme: Voice. Treaty. Truth. The key elements of the Uluru statement from the heart. The statement yearns to see the voice of Aboriginal and Indigenous Australians recognised in the nation’s constitution and paths the way to a Makarrata Commission.

Uluru is sacred to the Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara Anangu, the Aboriginal people of the land.

She is in every Visit Australia campaign and whilst the tourist flock to see her, many seem to want to tick it off as one, of many rocks to climb. They simply can not respect ‘she’ is a living cultural landscape that of which is considered sacred to the owners of the land. Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjar people tell us spirits of the ancestral beings continue to reside in Uluru making the land a deeply important part of their rich Aboriginal cultural identity.

I was raised from a family of great story tellers with Pinocchio noses, where exaggeration is all part of the family traits handed down. Sometimes in an extended family yarn it’s the only way to get attention and to be heard it would seem. But this time I don’t know what exaggeration I could possibly add to make you listen; The Anangu people are said to be the oldest culture known. That’s 60,000 years old according to science. Their majesty if you may, more than a temple, ULURU was formed by different ancestral spirits and is comparable to- let’s say, any other sacred site in the world. (She’s kind of a really big deal, forget anything god or human made). And unlike entering a pyramid, for instance, you are not setting foot on a artefact of a culture that no longer exists.

After the announcement that the Uluru climb would be closed for good this coming October, a massive surge in the number of tourist have arrived like seagulls rampaging their garbage throughout the land and are climbing her, with absolutely no respect to the local laws of the Anangu. The race was on. However, on arrival, I was taken aback by the desperate array of very clear and endless signage throughout the park and pleas written on every tourist document of the area from both the traditional owners the Anangu people and National Parks that are blantantly ignored. There isn’t a sign or piece of documentation anywhere near Uluru that would give you the impression that it’s actually okay to climb. In fact unless you knew otherwise you just wouldn’t dare.

As we continued on our journey and approached her majesty Uluru at a closer scale, I was utterly gob-smacked by the number of tourist climbers ignoring all the plastered warnings and pleas not to climb. I’m not speaking your regular sprinkles, this was Uluru jam topped with hundreds and thousands.

To highlight the injury of insensitive amongst white Australians I note more than a handful of assumptions I’ve had in passing conversations about our trip? Are you headed into Uluru before the ban?

Tjukurpa is the foundation of Anangu a somewhat complex to comprehend culture which refers to the creation time when ancestoral beings created the world as we know.

There’s a legend, if you disrespect her or disturb her – she carries a curse. The era of the ignorant and entitled. The bucket list of accomplishments during a lifetime. You climb her, you can probably tick off a few other things in the process, none of them I’d want to be remembered for.

I read the National Park pamphlet out aloud to my six-times-around-the-sun, wise, second heart beat, ‘Payla – welcome to Anangu land. This land was created by the creation ancestors.’ He listens Intriguingly as I continue on… Please don’t climb Uluru. That’s a really sacred thing your climbing.

He gasps, ‘Those people are all disrespectful inappropriatators!!! Why are they breaking aboriginal law?’

‘I don’t know, Sweetheart. Some people don’t have kind hearts. Something terrible must have happened to them.’

‘But why?’ he continues… He’s always trying to work out in his little mind the wrongs and rights in the world.

It is at this point, that I offer, ‘I wasn’t always aware.’ Something happened in my very white Australian upbringing. A decade ago, I was blessed with a step son who identifies as Aboriginal. I’ve had to challenge and unpack all those stereotypes and work out why Australians can’t get reconciliation right for him. Also, I wasn’t brought up with a religious influence of any kind, yet I’d still never see it fit to be disrespectful in a church. See where I’m headed? This is about cultural respect and challenging your own damn sense of entitlement.

Sure, the ban will come into effect in the next few months, so that may be a forgone conclusion. And, in some ways, this ban may have been a factor to understand the increase in numbers wanting to stand at the top of a big rock, take a selfie and to have bragging rights, ‘I got up there while you still could.’ But maybe there is hope for the future. Even though the traditional owners want to take away the climb, they do not wish to ban visitors from this sacred place. Without the superficial climb, hopefully people who come to this place will be able to explore the culture and significance.

Certainly, with fascination, I circumnavigated her. This I feel is the best opportunity to connect to Uluru and the surrounding land. The walk is not merely a wander around a big rock. Like a magnet, drawn. We explored the many fascist of her; from the caves, the art and the stories around them. Passed boulders, enchanted, towering white gum, waterways to waterholes. It’s hard to describe the changing colours as I went on my journey and the breathtaking sunset where the colour encapsulated you, assaulting your senses. It truly is a sacred place, like no other, that I will not forget visiting. I will come again in the future.

In the meantime, as my wise, six-times-around-the-sun, heart beat offers, I ask that you stop in your tracks and reconsider becoming an unknowing ‘Disrespectful Inappropriatator‘.

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