The Anangu people of Uluru have lived there for thousands of years and they are still the traditional landowners today. To honour their heritage and culture, visitors to this site share the responsibility of preservation and protection. But to do so, it’s important to understand the spiritual significance of this land to the Anangu - and the entire country - and how to show respect.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is recognised by UNESCO in two ways: for its geological formations and rare plants and animals, as well as for its cultural importance. The red rocks are millions of years old and the Anangu people belong to the oldest culture known to man. Many of the animals are believed to be ancestral creatures, according to the Tjukurpa, the law of the Anangu people; it is believed that these ancestral beings caused the evolution of the form and features of Uluru.
Dreamtime Stories detail this evolution, the formation of land and the Aboriginal laws of existence. They are wondrous, and are actually sacred in themselves. Visitors can get the chance to hear these stories from Aboriginal locals, often expressed through the sounds of clapping, music from the didgeridoo and traditional dance. Sacred ceremonial meetings are only acceptable to join if invited. But festivals and culture centre performances are open to all. They’re a fantastic way to experience tradition with all of the senses.
One of the most iconic attractions of Uluru is Aboriginal rock art. These are records of the communities that have occupied this land dating back 5,000 years. They are also an integral practice within the communities for religious ceremonies, teaching and expression to this day. Their meanings passed down from generation to generation. For example, the long-admired use of dots in their paintings represent vegetation in the area and are still used in paintings today. When visiting Uluru, these paintings are clearly visible in cave shelters along Mala and Kuniya walks, and for their preservation, it is important not to touch them.
Within the park, there are 40 clearly marked sacred aboriginal sites. Visitors are asked not to film or photograph these sites to respect the traditional culture. Climbing the monolith itself is also advised against out of religious respect; but admiring and memorialising that experience by taking photo or video is certainly allowed.
Learning more about the significance of these natural and artistic features is a moving experience. A visit to Uluru is quite unlike any other anywhere else in the world. It is a reconnection to the land, a trip through time, a glimpse into one of the oldest living cultures. It is not to be missed.