UNESCO World Heritage-listed 348-metre (1,142-ft) monolith Uluru was named Ayers Rock by explorer William Christie Gosse after he stumbled upon it during an expedition in 1873, but has been known by the name Uluru for centuries among the Anangu.
The rock is central to the creation myths of the aboriginal people, with tourists only told the start of the stories which their children would typically learn.
The rest of the stories are shrouded in secrecy – some told only to women, others told only to men, as part of their coming-of-age rites, often accompanied by visits to particularly sacred parts of the rock.
To respect the traditions, visitors are restricted in which parts of the rock they can visit, and are often asked not to take photos of sensitive sites, even while driving past.
While Uluru was first mapped more than 100 years ago, regular visits did not begin until a dirt track was opened in the 1940s, with tours only beginning in earnest in the 1950s.
In 1956 the land was removed from the control of the Anangu when it was declared a National Park, and control was handed to the Commonwealth.
UNESCO World Heritage-listed 348-metre (1,142-ft) monolith Uluru was named Ayers Rock by explorer William Christie Gosse after he stumbled upon it during an expedition in 1873, but has been known by the name Uluru for centuries among the Anangu
The move kick-started a decades-long legal fight by the aboriginal people to win back control of their ancestral land, which ended on October 26, 1985, when the territory was handed back under a 99-year lease.
As part of the lease the Anangu were obliged to keep a climbing route open, but they have been campaigning to shut it ever since.
On October 26, 2019, a permanent ban on climbing came into place – marking the 34th anniversary of the land being handed back to its aboriginal owners.
The ban was a major victory for the Anangu aboriginal people, for whom the rock is a deeply sacred place and central to many cultural traditions, following decades of campaigning to have the route shut.
The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board announced the ban in 2017 after finding that less than 20 per cent of park visitors were climbing the rock, but since then there has been a steady uptick in visitors looking to make the trek, with Australians and Japanese being the main users.
In September, Google Maps removed virtual walking tours of Uluru almost a year after visitors were banned from climbing it.
Parks Australia asked Google to remove pictures of climbers scaling the culturally significant summit ‘in accordance with the wishes of Anangu, Uluru’s traditional owners, and the national park’s Film and Photography Guidelines’.
A spokesperson for Parks Australia told the ABC they alerted Google ‘the user-generated images from the Uluru summit that have been posted on their mapping platform’.
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