Category: Uluru.

New viewing area unveiled at Uluru

Uluru in the Northern Territory is one of Australia's most famous natural wonders

Uluru in the Northern Territory is one of Australia's most famous natural wonders

Sophie Tedmanson in Sydney

Australian Aboriginal elders are hoping a new viewing platform unveiled at Uluru today will help discourage tourists from climbing the sacred rock.

The $21 million (£12 million) viewing area was opened at a dawn ceremony near the 348m-high monolith, formerly known as Ayres Rock, which sits in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the centre of Australia.

The traditional owners of the park joined the Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett to open the new vantage point – named Talinguru Nyakunytjaku, or “place to look from the sand dune” in the Aboriginal Pitjantjatjara language – at the ceremony in a previously closed area of the park.

Mr Garrett said the viewing area – which is 3km (2 miles) from the rock and includes 11km (7 miles) of roads, 1600m (1mile) of walking tracks and traditional shade shelters – is the largest infrastructure investment in the park in almost 15 years.

“The viewing platforms landscaped into the dunes offer panoramic views over the desert oaks to both Uluru and Kata Tjuta – spectacular at sunrise but fantastic throughout the day,” Mr Garrett said.

“I see this as a springboard for a whole range of new visitor experiences, opening up new opportunities for Indigenous and tourism businesses.”

The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park chairman Harry Wilson said the traditional owners were celebrating the new venture: “The old people are singing”.

“It looks beautiful from the new place,” Mr Wilson told The Times.

“It’s a good place, and it’s a good opportunity for people to take a picture of the rock and the Olgas in the background.

“And hopefully it will discourage tourists from climbing the rock.”

The World Heritage-listed Uluru holds great spiritual significance to the local Anangu Aborigines.

The traditional owners worked closely with the government to develop the new viewing area, and chose the location so as not to interfere with their beliefs. Under traditional law tourists are banned from photographing Uluru from the northeast because it reveals sacred sites.

More than 300,000 tourists visit Uluru, one of Australia’s most popular landmarks, every year, and approximately 38 per cent climb the rock against the wishes of the traditional owners.

Earlier this year the Australian government released a draft management plan for the park which included the proposal to ban tourists from climbing Uluru.

Last month a local tour guide claimed tourists were going to the toilet at the top of the sacred site, causing environmental concerns, while an indigenous park guide recently revealed they had also found deposited cremated remains of loved ones at Uluru.

Mr Wilson said these are among the reasons the traditional owners are trying to find new ways, such as the new viewing platform, to entice people away from climbing Uluru.

He said the traditional owners want to share their culture with the world, and teach people about their beliefs.

“It is slowly sinking in that we don’t want people to climb,” he said. “The younger generation does come here and think about it, they are starting to learn a lot more and respect our culture better.”

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Category: Uluru
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