Celebrations at Uluru after climbers permanently banned - GulfToday

Australian tribe spreads cheer after permanent ban on climbing sacred site

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Indigenous Anangu perform a traditional dance during a ceremony marking the permanent ban on climbing Uluru.

The Australian native tribe of Anangu are in high spirits, singing and dancing away to glory. And for good reason.

For a long, long time, the indigenous community had sought a ban on climbing Uluru, or Ayers Rock, sacred to them. The ban was first announced two years ago, but only now has it come into force.

Apart from respecting cultural practices, the ban is designed to protect the site from further environmental damage and ensure visitors' safety.

Uluru is a massive sandstone monolith thought to have formed more than 500 million years ago.

The nearest large town is Alice Springs, 450km away. The Anangu's links to the site goes back tens of thousands of years.

As the sun set over Uluru, Indigenous Australians performed songs and traditional dances, capping a weekend of celebrations to mark the historic ban on climbing the sacred site.

The ceremony was held two days after a final surge of tourists who had flocked to central Australia scaled the giant red monolith before its closure to climbers.

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The ceremony was held two days after a final surge of tourists had flocked to central Australia.

A crowd gathered late on Friday at the base of the site to watch rangers erect the "permanently closed" sign, in line with the long-held wishes of indigenous Australians.

"No more climbing today," shouted indigenous elder Nelly Patterson. "Close it," she yelled to a loud cheer from the crowd.

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Previously known as Ayers Rock, the site was officially returned to the Anangu in 1985.

The ban, first announced in 2017, had long been sought by the traditional owners of the land, the Anangu, whose connection to the site dates back tens of thousands of years.

Apart from respecting cultural practices, the ban is designed to protect the site from further environmental damage and ensure visitors' safety.

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Signs at its base had implored visitors not to climb it, but they were regularly ignored by some.

"We are all very happy, as traditional owners, that the climb is closed now, after a long fight from handback to today," Reggie Uluru told reporters through an interpreter on Saturday.

Previously known as Ayers Rock, the site was officially returned to the Anangu in 1985.

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Indigenous Anangu children play with a camera during a ceremony.

Signs at its base had implored visitors not to climb it, but they were regularly ignored by some, especially in recent months as thousands made last-minute ascents.

"I think it is important that mother nature has a bit of a break," the last climber at Uluru, James Martin, said.

"I would like to say to the Aboriginals that we are sorry and the world does indeed belong to every single person who was born on the planet," the Australian told reporters as he came off the rock at sunset on Friday.

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Work is expected to begin next week to remove a chain that was used by climbers to make the steep ascent.

Parks Australia added extra rangers on patrol over the weekend, with fines for those who attempt to summit the rock now reaching up to Aus$10,000 ($6,800).

"Although we expect our visitors to respect the law and the wishes of traditional owners when they visit, significant penalties can be issued," Parks Australia told national broadcaster ABC.

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Tourists are still being encouraged to visit the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

Work is expected to begin next week to remove a chain that was used by climbers to make the steep ascent.

Tourists are still being encouraged to visit the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park where they can view the monolith from its base, walk around its perimeter and learn about its indigenous heritage at the cultural centre.