On October 25 the signs at the foot of Uluru were changed. What has, for more than 30 years, indicated that the local Anangu don’t believe the rock should be climbed on but the decision is yours, now simply says ‘no climbing’. This change has been decades in the making and comes after many many years of hard work from the people of Mutitjulu and surrounds
The base of the climb is now fenced off and Craig Woods, the chairman of Mutitjulu, tells me that the community feels a sense of relief they will no longer have to feel the sorrow that comes with injuries or deaths caused on the climb.
With the important work of the close done, it was time to recognize this big change and what it actually means to Anangu and the work that has been done to get here.
Chief minister Michael Gunner spoke at length about just how much this decision means to the People of the region and the NT more broadly. More than that though Gunner was willing to admit without hesitation that assumptions had been made in the past and opportunities missed that would have changed life considerably for the traditional owners, if things had been done differently. Gunners speech writers were on fire and he delivered a powerful and emotive message that was on par with Kevin Rudd’s apology to the stolen generation.
Where Gunner, and other speakers, went wrong though was in completely leaving the Uluru statement from the heart out of this conversation. And what of our fearless federal leader? Morrison didn’t show his head but, instead, sent his minister for destroying the environment, Susan Ley. What this amazing spiritual and cultural event had to do with the environment was beyond me but that’s what he did. I read (perhaps in The Guardian) last week that, had this event at Uluru been attached to the Catholic Church, Morrison and his mates would have been there with bells on. As it was, he didn’t see it relevant.
Speaking to tourism operators from the region it was evident that there was a sense of relief that people were finally all on the same page. Justin runs tours around the rock with school groups, he tells me all it takes is a little bit of education at the start of a tour and peoples attitudes towards the climb change.
With speeches out of the way it was time for the important cultural dances performed by the elders of the surrounding lands.
As a producer, reporter and manager it was an absolute honor to play a part in this incredible cultural experience. The pride of the elders on our team at NG Media was evident too as they ran around collecting interviews, providing live commentary and providing endless hours of camera work. It was obvious from the outset that Anangu would have done anything to be a part of this incredible opportunity.
As a musician and life long music fan this amazing event didn’t disappoint either. Shane Howard (of Goanna fame) wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to get up in front of this grand monument and play his hit ‘Solid Rock’. Unsurprisingly, the whole audience were in strong voice behind him and it sounded incredible.
Another real treat of the night was a performance from the Central Australian Indigenous Choir. The Choir came to fame after a recent doco was produced about their tour of Germany, during in which they performed traditional German church hymns in their local indigenous language of the Hermannsburg region of the NT.
And then there was this surprise treat for Midnight Oil fans. Peter Garrett spoke at length and with a great sense of pride about the time he had spent in the region in the early 80’s. He talked about how special it was to finally see this change take place and he dedicated the song to those elders passed who were so vocal and strong in the early days of the campaign to see the climb close.