Chief Minister Adam Giles Wants To Talk To Traditional Owners About Climbing Sacred Site Uluru Again

20/04/2016 8:12 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST
Per-Andre Hoffmann / LOOK-foto via Getty Images
View at Ayers Rock at sunset, Northern Territory, Australia

Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles wants to start a conversation about opening Uluru to climbing again, despite its spiritual significance.

The Alice Springs draw card, previously called Ayers Rock, has been an international tourist attraction for decades, but its red sandstone flanks have also been a sacred site for the region's traditional owners, and is part of Indigenous mythology dating back to the dawn of creation.

ABC News reported Giles said climbing the rock would produce "great opportunity for the local Anangu to participate in a lucrative business and create much-needed local jobs", saying he'd "like to hear from the traditional owners, the Anangu people, and start a conversation".

Giles also listed other culturally significant sites around the world open to tourism.

"For example the Temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Taj Mahal in India and Machu Picchu in Peru spring to mind," Giles said.

"Uluru is as spectacular as any of those. It is higher than the Eiffel Tower and a lot more beautiful."

While rock walks were originally advertised to international tourists, traditional owners began publicly imploring people to stop in the 1970s, and even reached a deal with then Prime Minister Bob Hawke to stop the climbs completely in 1985 -- but the plan was not followed.

From a safety point of view, a recorded 35 people died while climbing Uluru and traditional owners said it was their responsibility to keep people safe on their lands.

Today, it is not illegal to climb Uluru, but a sign at its base asks tourists to please respect traditional owners' culture and not climb it.

Giles made the comments during Northern Territory Parliament in Darwin on Tuesday, saying he'd visited the landmark with golfer Greg Norman and said "he, like I, could see the benefits of allowing people to climb".

Parks Australia, however, asks 'please don't climb Uluru' on behalf of the Anangu traditional owners.

Former environment minister Peter Garrett called on the federal government to ban walks on the rock this month.

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