I am not proud to say it, but on my first visit to Uluru in 1995 I climbed the rock and wrote my name in the book. My ignorance is permanently recorded and I can never take back that decision. I confess that my ignorance of Uluru and the surrounding area was all encompassing. Climbing ‘Ayers Rock’ as it was still commonly known then, was just one of those things you did as a tourist in the beautiful red centre. We also ran over a roo with our bus on that trip, quite a memorable experience.
Whilst I was ignorant of the fact that I stood on sacred ground, I was not so ignorant that it didn’t impact me. Following the climb I walked around the base of the rock and it was then that I started to see and even feel that this was a special place. In the years that followed I came to a new understanding of Uluru as something much more than a tourist attraction.
The theme of NAIDOC 2015 ‘We all stand on Sacred Ground’ was “chosen specifically to highlight and celebrate the anniversary of the ‘Handback’ of Uluru.”
Ayers Rock was handed back to its traditional owners on 26 October 1985. On 15 December 1993 permission was given to reintroduce its traditional name by renaming the area as Ayers Rock/Uluru. “1995 marked the changing of the name of the National Park from Ayers Rock – Mount Olga National Park to Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park. This change in name was to acknowledge and show respect for the Anangu people and, particularly, their ownership of and relationship to the area.”
Ayers Rock remained the dominant name until 6 November 2002 when the order was reversed to Uluru/Ayers Rock. The name, Uluru, is probably not significant for its specific meaning. Whilst some claim it means a whole range of things, Senior Traditional owners and anthropologists tend to agree that it is simply a place name.This does not however diminish its significance or the rights of the Traditional owners to protect and manage it.
I hope to return to Uluru one day, I won’t be climbing, but I would love to learn more about this fascinating and sacred place. Perhaps this year for NAIDOC we would all benefit from learning more about the sacred ground in our local areas?
Sandra Crowden is the Territorial Social Justice Secretary for The Salvation Army Southern Territory.