Sacred Sites / by Madi Luschwitz

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To venture all the way to the red centre in Alice Springs was an honour just as it was in other ways such a spiritual experience.

Where else in the world do tourists congregate around a huge rock in the middle of no where surrounded by arid landscape it’s so peculiar, yet so majestic all at once. Most people you meet whilst travelling these parts pick up on the heavy presence and silence that falls upon you when witnessing these sacred sites.

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We are only allowed to visit these lands as “tja  tja” meaning children (not in a literal sense but in terms of our knowledge of the land compared to the indigenous).  Even this to me feels very debatable about how welcome our presence is. So the least we can do is tread lightly and play our role as “tja tja” willing to learn about the culture and leave it as we found it. Unfortunately not everyone can fully grasp and understand this concept of respect.

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Uluru with beautiful dark streaks where the water has rushed down in the wet season

Uluru with beautiful dark streaks where the water has rushed down in the wet season

When we arrived to the base of Uluru I was so confronted by what they call “the scar of the rock”.  Nuts and bolts hammered into the beautiful form with the attachment of a chain making its way up to the top of the rock as a handrail for the foot scuffing tourists to clamber their way up to conquer it, own it, get their photo and move onto the next "experience". Leaving behind the white scar as their footsteps strip Uluru of it’s beautiful red colour.

When we arrived on the Saturday the last death from falling off the rock was the previous Tuesday! over 35 deaths. One may say bad juju is being sent to those climbing it which may very well be the case. Although from what I have heard in my time here, It genuinely upsets the indigenous community to hear of these deaths on their sacred land some have been known to attend the funeral of a deceased rock stomper.

With all of these notions floating around in my head a woman came up to our guide, who had just delivered a heartfelt speech why we must not climb it. This woman asked “why it was closed for climbing!“ Our guide answered its “due high wind at summit” followed by a “I hope it stays closed all day so no one can. It’s profoundly disrespectful”. To this woman’s disregard and total ignorance she replied “what’s the point of coming all the way out here to see this rock if we cannot climb it!”

I feel this notion to conquer comes with a need for control and a dissatisfaction. Also a total disconnect with nature, the world around us and no gratitude for what joy and the force of nature can bring to us on a daily basis! 

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Seeing the brutality of the handrail that takes you up the rock, which is I must add is a free activity and open to the floodgates was devastating! I used to think at least people had to pay through the ass to do it so a little of the joke was on them. Then combine this with the crazy tourist so cranky and pissed off her climbing hopes had been squished really hurt to see. My eyes filled up with tears for the indigenous communities all over Australia and for the pain we have inflicted upon them.

I do not see myself as an expert in aboriginal culture nor it’s communities but I do see it as my duty as someone born in these lands to learn as much as I can about it in my lifetime in order to be as respectful as possible.

I want aboriginal culture to be continued and passed down through their bloodlines and not forgotten with the elders. It’s one of the oldest civilisations and it’s in our hands now to fight back for them. Even if that means simply educating yourself so you can educate others.

I’m aware that the rock climb will be permanently closed from October 2019 which is great news! I do not blame the tourists either for wanting to come here and climb it because we as Australians have not set the standard of respect high enough. “Here is this rock, it’s really sacred, you shouldn’t climb it but it’s open anyway”. We need to start living and breathing this respect towards our indigenous community, it’s people and a long, long history of care and love of the earth that we could learn a lot from.

Uluru at sunset

Uluru at sunset