Closing the Climb: Refusal or reconciliation in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park?

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


First inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1987 under natural criteria and later renominated as a cultural landscape in 1994, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park has long been recognized for its exceptional values. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this recognition also led to its establishment as a major tourism draw of international standing. Located close to the geographic centre of Australia, the park -- and 348-metre-high monolith located within it -- is often described as the country’s ‘red heart’, thereby revealing an ongoing settler obsession with claiming it both physically and symbolically. Despite Anangu regaining ownership of the park in 1985 and persistently trying to deter visitors from climbing Uluru, many continued with the practice, albeit in gradually decreasing numbers. In October 2019, some ninety years after tourists first started climbing it, the Uluru Climb was permanently closed. Drawing on data collected in November 2012 and May 2019, this presentation will examine visitor responses to the closure of the Uluru Climb. It will highlight the prevalence of feelings of ownership, empathy, and shame, as well as their political implications. In closing, it will point to an ethic of relationality as key to the mobilisation of the feelings, emotions and affects necessary to transform the outlook of visitors in the context of ongoing reconciliation debates in contemporary Australia.
Period11 Jul 2023
Held atUniv Padua, University of Padua, Italy
Degree of RecognitionInternational