• Uluru, shortly before sunset (AAP)Source: AAP
Tourism experiences at Uluru should be controlled by traditional owners, says Vincent Forrester, an Aboriginal activist from Alice Springs.
Andrea Booth

The Point
14 Apr 2016 - 9:20 PM  UPDATED 21 Sep 2016 - 11:46 AM

“Uluru is our most sacred site, and that people are still ignoring that and climbing that, just shows that people simply aren’t listening,” traditional owner Vincent Forrester told 'The Point' after questions arose this week around whether to permit tourists to climb the Australian icon, also known as Ayers Rock.

“There’s more stories around the base of the rock anyway.

"Plus we also have a duty of care, people could fall off that rock and die, and we want to stop that.”

The Australian Government announced last week it was partnering with private enterprise Big Run Events to conduct the Big Uluru Trek, a five-day hike over one hundred kilometres from Amata to Uluru.

The government says the trek does not encompass climbing Uluru.

"Tourism has a vital role to play in promoting the natural and cultural values of the park," Environment Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement.

“It is great to see private enterprise given a chance to work with Indigenous and government partners to deliver ideas that ensure Uluru remains a destination of choice for travellers.”

Big Run Events managing director Greg Donovan says he hopes the hike can provide tourists with a "deeper understanding of Indigenous culture and history".

Australian government management of Uluru

The Department of Environment's 2010-2020 Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Management Plan states it intends to “work towards closure of the climb” up Uluru.

It adds "the climb will be permanently closed" when less than 20 per cent of Uluru visitors climb the rock, or new tourism experiences replace it, or "the cultural and natural experiences on offer are the critical factors when visitors make their decision to visit the park."

The plan says research conducted over a three year period found that "not being able to climb would not affect the decision to visit the park for the vast majority of visitors [98 per cent]".

Uluru handback 30th anniversary: magnificent pictures
As the thermometer inched towards 40C and the sun beat down on Uluru, the traditional Anangu people of the region celebrated their triumphant win over the Australian government in reclaiming their land. Thirty years ago, on October 26, 1985, the federal government returned the lands of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park to their rightful owners.

Mr Forrester says closing the climb is long overdue.

"Since the handback we've wanted it closed," he says about Anangu traditional owners reclaiming Uluru and Kata Tjuta lands in 1985. 

“We can always provide a tourism service, but it’s got to be at our place, in our way.

“It’s got to be up to us.”