New viewing platform opens at Uluru
By Tara Ravens
ULURU will be seen in a new light today when a closed corner of the national park is opened for the first time to tourists. But local Aborigines hope the stunning $21 million viewing platform will do more than just enable people to see the Australian symbol and surrounding parkland from high above a desert sand dune.
”Traditional owners are working with the national parks to come up with different strategies to take the emphasis off climbing,” said Mick Starkey, a local Anangu man and the park's longest-serving ranger.
”I think building this area means people might take notice of the culture some more, see how Uluru is embedded in the landscape and listen to the traditional owners when they say they really don't like people climbing up.”
Earlier this year, the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park called for an end to people climbing the 348-metre-high monolith, which is sacred to local Aborigines, citing cultural, environmental and safety concerns.
It sparked immediate debate over the future of the climb, which is seen by many as a drawcard for the 350,000 tourists who visit the rock each year.
Last month it was revealed that people making the arduous trek up Uluru are also using it as a toilet.
”It's being washed down and polluting the waterholes and then all the stuff that lives in those waters is getting polluted, and it's not good for all of us,” Mr Starkey said from the base of the climb.
Rangers are also concerned that people are depositing the cremated remains of their loved ones at Uluru, which has the potential to confuse carbon dating of archaeological sites and rock art.
”Only this year, we've seen three different spots in the last three months. I don't know if it is the same or different people,” Mr Starkey said.
”It's going to whack all the dating out.” vEnvironment Minister Peter Garrett will join a gathering of elders, locals and government officials at a dawn ceremony on Thursday to mark the opening of Talinguru Nyakunytjaku, or “place to look from the sand dune”.
”I see this as a springboard for a whole range of new visitor experiences, opening up new opportunities for indigenous and tourism businesses,” said Mr Garrett, who will make a final call on whether people will be able to continue climbing the rock next year.
”Uluru is recognised globally as a symbol of Australia and it is a major drawcard for international tourists.”
Resources and operations manager Kelly Bennison said the project, which includes 11 km of road, was the largest infrastructure development in the park's history.
”It will be where we direct people to see sunrises,” she said of the platform, which affords people a remarkable view of not only Uluru but the 36 head-shaped domes of Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas.
It's a view Mr Starkey hopes will open people's minds to the environmental and cultural significance of the land he loves.
”Traditional owners want to share their culture with the rest of the world.
There's no doubt about that. But there is some cultural protocols that we need to obey,” he said.
*article sourced from news.com.au
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